Earlier this month, India reported more than 400,000 new infections daily, but the numbers have gradually eased. Government data on Saturday showed 257,299 new cases.
Active cases in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka and the coastal state of Kerala have fallen in the past two weeks, Lav Agarwal, head of the health ministry, told reporters on Saturday.
Daily figures in states, including West Bengal, which recently concluded state elections, and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were on the rise, he said.
With hospitals overflowing, the health system overwhelmed in cities and a shortage of vaccines, experts have warned India could face a third wave of infections in the coming months.
“While he [spread of coronavirus] has stabilized in many parts of the country, and overall the burden has been eased, we have a long way to go with this wave, ”said Dr VK Paul, member of a federal government panel on the management of COVID-19, during a press conference.
“For the first time, we have seen that rural areas have been affected by this pandemic.”
The total number of infections in the country stood at 26.3 million, the second highest in the world after the United States, while the total number of deaths in the country was 295,525.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state officials have been widely criticized for failing to counter the pandemic as many officials braced for another wave.
Another major concern is the slowness of vaccination in the country.
Delhi’s chief minister said authorities were forced to stop vaccinations for people aged 18 to 44 as stocks ran out.
Fear of black fungi
The Indian government has asked states to report cases of mucormycosis, also known as black fungus – a deadly infection that has appeared in patients who have had the coronavirus.
The disease causes discoloration of the eyes and nose, blurred vision, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, doctors have had to remove one or both eyes, or part of the jawbone to prevent the disease from spreading.
States in India have also ordered emergency measures to counter an outbreak of the rare infection in coronavirus patients.
According to medical professionals, diabetic patients were more likely to suffer from the disease.
The states of Gujarat and Telangana became the last to report black fungus outbreaks on Thursday, a day after Rajasthan.
The state of Maharashtra has reported more than 2,000 cases. Gujarat, Prime Minister Modi’s home state, has around 1,200 cases, officials said.
“Doctors say coronavirus patients with diabetes and weakened immune systems are particularly prone to infections,” Elizabeth Puranam of Al Jazeera in New Delhi reported.
“They believe the use of steroids to treat severe COVID-19 may be contributing to the condition of the pre-diabetic population.”