India infections top 20 million but numbers offer slight hope

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s coronavirus caseload topped 20 million yesterday but a drop in the daily infection count offered a slight hope that one of the world’s worst surges may be easing.

The South Asian nation’s plight is in stark contrast to Europe and the United States (US), where mass vaccinations have allowed the easing of many coronavirus restrictions.

Over 350,000 new cases were reported in India yesterday, a drop from the peak of 402,000 last week, giving some cause for optimism that the worst of the devastating wave may have passed.

“If daily cases and deaths are analysed, there is a very early signal of movement in the positive direction,” Senior Health Ministry official Lav Aggarwal told reporters.

“But these are very early signals. There is a need to further analyse it.”

India’s healthcare infrastructure has struggled to cope with the huge number of cases, with deep shortages of medicines, hospital beds and medical oxygen.

Rickshaw driver Mohammad Javed Khan in the central Indian city of Bhopal turned his vehicle into a makeshift ambulance after he saw people carrying patients to hospitals on their backs as they were too poor to afford one.

“Even when (people) call ambulances, the ambulances are charging USD70-140,” said Khan, who sold his wife’s jewellery to equip the rickshaw with medical equipment. “How will a poor person be able to afford it? Especially during this pandemic when most people don’t have income?”

People queue to get a dose of the Covishield vaccine at a vaccination centre in New Delhi, India. PHOTO: AFP