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The Big Take

How Errors, Inaction Sent a Deadly Covid Variant Around the World

India was slow to identify and publicize the emergence of delta

A thick layer of dust and scatterings of dried animal excrement covered the deserted intensive care unit in Amravati, a small city nestled in a far-flung, rural district in central India. Rows of hospital beds lay empty next to sets of unplugged ventilators on a recent afternoon and only the sound of roosting pigeons punctured the ghostly silence.

The uneasy calm contrasted starkly with the chaotic scenes in early 2021 that confronted Ravi Bhushan, a 44-year-old doctor based in this cotton-growing region about 400 miles east of Mumbai. Toward the end of January, Amravati and its surrounding districts began to register a number of sudden and explosive coronavirus outbreaks, just as the rest of India saw a lull after a first nationwide wave of infections.