Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, widely criticized for allowing religious festivals and political rallies involving hundreds of thousands of largely unmasked people, is reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown for fear of economic fallout.
With 3.45 million active cases on Tuesday, India recorded 357,229 new infections in the past 24 hours, while deaths increased from 3,449 to 222,408, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
The cumulative number of cases in the world’s second most populous country has passed 20 million, adding 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the top 10 million.
As hospitals run out of beds and oxygen, and morgues and crematoria overflow, experts say the real numbers could be five to ten times higher.
The leader of the main opposition party on Tuesday urged the government to impose a full nationwide lockdown.
“The only way to stop the spread of the corona crown is now a complete lockdown… The inaction of the Indian government is killing many innocent people,” opposition congressional leader Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to the government.
Several states have already imposed social restrictions in an attempt to contain the virus. The eastern state of Bihar has ordered a lockdown until May 15, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said. With more than 100,000 infections, his death toll is close to 3,000, according to government figures.
Suspended cricket league
India ended its hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday as the outbreak continued to worsen.
“While we have tried to bring a bit of positivity and joy, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and that everyone returns to their families and loved ones in these difficult times,” said IPL.
The IPL tournament, with an estimated brand value of $ 6.8 billion, was played without spectators in front of a huge television audience in the cricket-obsessed country, but was severely criticized for continuing as the system of health was collapsing.
Meanwhile, the UAE has extended the entry ban for travelers from India, the Abu Dhabi Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
Overwhelmed hospitals, crematoria
The coronavirus outbreak in India, which some experts have attributed to the spread of new, more infectious variants of the virus, has overwhelmed hospitals and depleted oxygen supplies, while victims have died in ambulances and parking lots.
Rows of funeral pyres set in parks and other open spaces are used to cremate overflowing corpses.
A bench of two Delhi High Court judges held videoconferences almost daily to hear hospital petitions asking for oxygen and invoking India’s constitutional right to the protection of life.
Some hope surfaced in comments from a health ministry official on Monday who said infections in some areas were stabilizing. Government modeling indicates a peak on Wednesday, a few days earlier than expected, as the virus has spread faster than expected.
But Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University in the United States, said he was concerned Indian policymakers he has been in contact with think things will improve in the coming days. .
“I… tried to tell them, ‘If all goes well, things will be horrible for the next few weeks. And it may be much longer, ”he said.
The spike in infections and deaths has coincided with a dramatic drop in immunization rates due to supply and delivery issues. At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a vaccine shortage and closed some vaccination centers.
The state administered 79,491 doses on Monday, following a record 534,372 a week ago.
In neighboring Modi state of Gujarat, the three largest cities of Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara have limited vaccines to people between the ages of 18 and 44, officials said.
Odisha state in the east of the country has also halted vaccinations in 11 of its 30 districts, health officials told Reuters news agency.
Forecasts from the two current vaccine producers in India show that it will take at least two months to increase the total monthly production from 70 million to 80 million doses.
Meanwhile, Britain announced a billion pounds ($ 1.4 billion) of new trade and investment with India, including a deal with the Serum Institute of India to help develop vaccines against the COVID-19 and other diseases.
India, which has the largest vaccine production capacity in the world, has partially or fully vaccinated about 9.5% of its 1.35 billion people, according to government portal Co-WIN.