Why does Delhi not have a capital

India's capital New Delhi : Between coronavirus and toxic smog

"We thought Covid was over, but this month was shocking," says Rajesh. The 27-year-old works in the pathology department of the Lok Nayak state hospital in New Delhi. "There were days when I brought ten or twelve dead people here," he tells the Indian Express. Rajesh has no time to take a break from his work at the Nigambodh Ghat, Delhi's largest and oldest cremation site on the Yamuna bank. Every fifth death here is a corona patient. India's metropolis now has over half a million corona infections. The death toll hit a sad record in November of 2,612 cases. Hospitals no longer have free beds, and crematoria are overburdened.

After the end of Diwali in October and the beginning of the cold season, the Corona cases in Delhi have skyrocketed. Delhi's notoriously poor air quality in winter exacerbates the situation: the Indian capital recorded particulate matter levels of over 350 micrograms this week. The toxic winter smog is expected to continue in the coming days.

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New coronavirus infections have fallen slightly this week, but at the same time thousands of farmers in and outside the city are protesting against the government's new agricultural reform law, which opens the sector to private investors. Experts fear a super spreader event, especially since the farmers are making no move to give up their demonstrations. Gurmeet Singh from Faridkot in the Punjab province has been holding out with hundreds of farmers in the north of the city for days - very few of them with mouth and nose protection and a safe distance from one another. "We could perhaps survive Corona, but how will we survive this cruel law that takes our bread and butter from us?" Singh complained to the PTI news agency. Singh's comrades-in-arms see it similarly. The government should never have allowed this meeting, says medical president Krishan Kumar Aggarwal. The protest rallies of the farmers are not only a danger for the capital, but for all of India.

India has so far recorded a total of 9.5 million coronavirus infections

Delhi with its more than 20 million inhabitants is already experiencing the third corona wave: not only the bad air is one reason why the virus is spreading so quickly here. Many urban areas are densely populated. Many migrant workers live in the slums and industrial areas and live together in a very confined space. Millions of migrants had left the city in March after losing their jobs and often even their homes with the government's tough lockdown. Most of them set out to return to their villages, but because there is no work there, almost all of them have since returned to Delhi and the other major cities.

Unlike the financial metropolis of Mumbai, which carried out scientific surveys in the slums early on and provided support, little is known in Delhi about how and where the virus is spreading in the city. It is estimated that by the end of September between 40 to 60 percent of the population of Delhi had had a corona infection. In the slums of Mumbai, many residents probably already have corona antibodies because they have gone through an infection, in richer neighborhoods the proportion is likely to be much lower. This part of the population is still at risk, even if the total number of infections in the city is high, writes the London mathematician Murad Banaji in the magazine "Scroll".

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There is therefore great hope for a vaccination. India has so far recorded a total of more than 9.5 million corona infections and almost 140,000 deaths. The Ministry of Health reported 35,551 new infections on Thursday. India's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has already announced that he would have vaccinated between 250 and 300 million people in August 2021. This is still comparatively little for a population of over 1.3 billion people. At the moment, however, India's government is of the opinion that not all of India needs to be immunized to prevent transmission of the virus. "Science is the only exit strategy from Covid-19," Vardhan said recently. The country is the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines and has secured 1.6 billion doses of vaccine. According to a survey by Duke University, India mainly relies on the preparation from Novavax with one billion doses, followed by the vaccine from Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca with half a million doses. Both vaccines can be stored in a conventional refrigerator, making them suitable for countries like India where cold chains and storage at very low temperatures are a challenge.

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