India reports over 200,000 new cases in one day

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s daily coronavirus caseload doubled in 10 days, with over 200,000 new infections logged yesterday as authorities grapple with shortages of vaccines, treatments and hospital beds.

Having let its guard down with mass religious festivals, political rallies and crowds at cricket matches, India is experiencing a huge second wave, with almost two million fresh infections this month alone.

This week, it overtook Brazil to become the country with the second-highest number of
cases worldwide.

In the past day it also recorded over a thousand deaths, health ministry data showed, taking its total to 175,000, although on a per capita basis India is far behind many
other countries.

After a lockdown a year ago caused widespread misery and one of the sharpest downturns of any major economy, the central government is desperate to avoid a hugely unpopular second shutdown.

People walk past closed shops during a lockdown imposed by the state government amidst rising Covid-19 coronavirus cases, in Mumbai. PHOTO: AFP

But many states are tightening the screws, in particular Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai, which this week introduced tougher restrictions for its 125 million people.

This prompted many migrant workers to flee Mumbai and other cities in the state, in scenes reminiscent of the exodus from Indian towns and cities a year ago when the government halted activity almost overnight.

Hospitals around India are now struggling to cope, running short of beds, oxygen and coronavirus medicines like remdesivir.

The government on Wednesday postponed high school exams for 15 to 18-year-olds, which were to be held in May and June, amid the resurgence of the virus.

India’s drive to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people also hit obstacles, with just 114 million shots administered so far and stocks running low, according to local authorities.

The government has also put the brakes on the Serum Institute – the world’s largest maker of vaccines by volume – exporting to other countries.

Poorer countries, as well as some rich nations, have relied heavily on Serum for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but last month New Delhi told the institute to prioritise domestic needs.

Ongoing religious festivals have seen millions of pilgrims – mostly without masks – massing on the banks of the Ganges river.

The virus was detected in over 1,000 people in just 48 hours in Haridwar, officials said
on Wednesday.