An Indian state stricken with coronavirus after mass rallies were held for a key election ordered a two-week lockdown on Saturday in an attempt to stop the spread.
All offices, shops and public transport in West Bengal have been asked to close for 15 days after the region reported its biggest spike in deaths and infections to date.
West Bengal and a host of southern states are bearing the brunt of a Covid-19 outbreak in India that has brought the country’s total infection to nearly 25 million, with more than 265,000 deaths.
The strain of the virus responsible has been declared a variant of “global concern” by the World Health Organization.
West Bengal accounted for 21,000 of the 326,000 new cases reported in India on Saturday and state hospitals say they are overwhelmed with patients.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew tens of thousands to rallies in the region last month ahead of state elections in which his ruling Nationalist Party failed to topple Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Banerjee also held major rallies ahead of the polls and his brother died of coronavirus in hospital on Friday.
Many experts have said that the election campaign was a “super-broadcaster”.
In the resort state of Goa, more than 70 people have died in four days from a shortage of medical oxygen in hospitals, an opposition party in the area has said.
A court has ordered emergency oxygen supplies to be sent to Goa Medical College hospital to prevent further deaths.
The state’s main opposition party said the patients died from lack of oxygen, but the government said the cause of death had not been determined.
Authorities in Goa, however, said they have asked the central government to almost double the state’s oxygen supply to 40 tonnes per day.
Coronavirus restrictions in Goa had been relatively relaxed until the current wave of infections. The virus now causes more than 60 deaths per day in the region and Goa has one of the highest infection rates in India.
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© 2021 AFP