his was the week that Boris Johnson was supposed to be in India – and, given the news on the home front, he might well wish that he was. The original plan had been for a high-profile visit in January. It was postponed because of the surge of the pandemic in the UK, then rescheduled for April, then shortened, then called off because of the pandemic lockdown in India. Altogether not a happy tale.
But it is nothing like what India itself is going through. The harrowing pictures from New Delhi and elsewhere this week have been a reminder of the plight so many countries have faced during the Covid pandemic – of the despairing medics in Bergamo more than a year ago, of trolleys crammed into hospital corridors in New York City, and of what the UK managed largely to escape, thanks in part to its priority of “protecting the NHS” during the first wave of the emergency.
But there has been a particular immediacy about the reports from India, in part thanks to the diaspora in the UK, many of whom work for the NHS. Day after day, we have heard and watched their anguished phone calls with relatives a continent away. We have seen sick people begging to be admitted to hospital and turned away; people collapsing in the street, life-saving ventilators and oxygen bought and sold on an impromptu black market, and what happens when state and medical structures are overloaded and break down. We have been told that some pictures are too graphic to show. Doctors, here and there, relay the desolation of an all-out health emergency.
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