How is Assam

Social worker in Assam, India: "The situation is terrifying"

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Like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Eddy Kujur speaks of a "tsunami" when it comes to the corona disaster in his home country India. The social worker in the district of Jorhat in the southeastern state of Assam tells STANDARD on the phone about deaths in his close circle of friends - and about the fear that comes with the virus: "It's scary that people with whom you were in the video call last week, suddenly dead, "says the 32-year-old.

The NGO employee Zabi Darnei (30) reports to STANDARD that the situation in northeastern Assam is a lot more stable than in the corona hotspots such as Maharashtra in the northwest or Uttar Pradesh in the north of India, but the numbers are also increasing steadily in the northeast: "People don't adhere to security measures, don't keep physical distance, and don't wear masks."

Record numbers for new infections

On Thursday, India recorded another record number of new infections: 412,262 people were registered. Almost 4,000 people died in connection with Covid-19. According to reports, the so-called Indian variant - or Maharashtra variant, as it is called in India - is now the dominant one among new infections.

B.1.617 could be one of the reasons for the soaring numbers in the past few weeks, Sujeet Singh, director of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), told media representatives on Wednesday. To put it simply, the variant is a double mutant that could be more contagious and could circumvent an immunization that has already taken place.

Lack of oxygen

But what also contributes to the devastating situation on the subcontinent is the shortage of oxygen in the hospitals. Reports of deaths in hospital beds due to the shortage can be found daily in Indian media. Nine navy warships are currently deployed between Kuwait and Singapore to transport donated oxygen tanks to India.

The Supreme Court has now also intervened and asked the government in New Delhi to present a new plan for oxygen distribution. If the officials fail to do that, they could face up to six months in prison.

According to reports, private individuals are stashing oxygen bottles at home so that they do not have to rely on the authorities in an emergency. A mobile app is now to show in the capital in which hospitals how much oxygen is still available. In the meantime, only a few hours of security of supply were indicated in some facilities.

Election campaign in the crowd

In the more rural state of Assam, the number of infections has increased by around 4,500 cases per day in the past few days. At first glance, this may not seem high in the overall comparison in the 31-million-inhabitant state, but the social worker Kujur expects a more rapid increase in the near future: "There were several Hindu festivals and also elections in Assam, whereby the people Moved freely without a mask or distance, "he says. The politicians also showed themselves to be without protection at mass events. According to the 30-year-old Darnei, the tenor during the election campaign was that "there is no Corona". "It was only during the vote itself that we kept a distance," says Kujur: "Before and after that, people stood together in a very small space."

While a number of measures were enacted in Assam on Wednesday to contain the virus, not all of them would be effective, reports Darnei. The fact that the shops would have to close at 2 p.m. would only result in crowds of people rushing into the markets in the morning and just before 2 p.m. In addition, fake news spreads very quickly: "People in rural areas often have no access to the media," says the 30-year-old: "They tend to believe that the news is not serious." What would be spread? "Horror stories about vaccinations," says Darnei: "That you would get Corona with the vaccine rather than without it."

Exit strategy

How the country can get out of the disaster is difficult to say, says Kujur. The situation on the subcontinent is too complex - even without Corona. But the social worker is certain that keeping a distance and vaccination is a good step: "But we must not forget about the vulnerable groups," he warns: "Those who do not even have enough food will also be included in the government's measures neglected."

These are exactly those people who could later pass on the virus in a new wave. Therefore, the authorities should take care of them and not just "look at the big problems". (Bianca Blei, 6.5.2021)