The government is facing growing pressure to impose a nationwide lockdown to stem the devastating COVID-19 wave that has flooded hospitals and morgues.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, widely criticized for allowing religious festivals and political gatherings attended by hundreds of thousands of mostly unmasked people, is reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown for fear of the economic repercussions.
With 3.45 million active cases, On Wednesday, 4,12,262 new cases of corona have been reported across the country and 3,980 people have died due to infection in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed.
The cumulative number of cases in the world’s second most populous country has surpassed 20 million, adding 10 million cases in just four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.
With hospitals running out of beds and oxygen, and morgue and crematorium overflowing, experts say the true number could be five to 10 times higher.
Leaders of the main opposition parties on Tuesday urged the government to impose a full national lockdown. “The only way to stop the spread of the corona now is a complete lockdown,” said opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Twitter, referring to the government.
Several states have imposed social restrictions in an effort to contain the virus. The eastern state of Bihar ordered the lockdown until May 15, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said. With more than 100,000 infections, the death toll is close to 3,000, government figures show.
India on Tuesday also suspended the hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL) as the outbreak continued to escalate.
“While we have tried to bring some positives and cheer, it is very important that the tournament is now suspended and everyone returns to their families and loved ones in these difficult times,” said BCCI.
The IPL tournament, with an estimated brand value of $ 6.8 billion, was played out of sight to many television viewers in a country that is obsessed with cricket but has been heavily criticized for continuing as the healthcare system falls apart.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates extended a ban on entry from travelers arriving from India, the foreign ministry in Abu Dhabi said in a statement on its website.
Hospitals, crematoriums overwhelmed
India’s coronavirus spike, which some experts attribute to the spread of a new, more contagious variant of the virus, has flooded hospitals and depleted oxygen supplies, while sufferers died in ambulances and parking lots.
Rows of firewood installed in parks and other open spaces were used to cremate the overflow of bodies.
A Delhi High Court two-judge judge has held video conferences almost daily to listen to petitions from hospitals seeking oxygen and calling for India’s constitutional right to protection of life.
Some hope emerged in comments on Monday by a health ministry official who said infections in some areas were abating. Government modeling showed a peak on Wednesday, a few days earlier than expected, as the virus had spread faster than expected.
But Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health in the United States, said he was concerned that Indian policymakers with whom he had contact believed things would improve in the coming days.
“I have… tried to tell them, ‘If all goes well, things are going to get terrible over the next few weeks. And it may be much longer, “he said.
Vaccinations have dropped dramatically
The spike in infections and deaths has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccination rates amid supply and delivery problems.
At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital Mumbai, reported vaccine shortages and closed several inoculation centers. On Monday, the state gave 79,491 doses, after a record 534,372 a week ago.
In the neighboring state of Gujarat, Ahmedabad’s three largest cities, Surat and Vadodara limit vaccines to those aged between 18 and 44, officials said.
The eastern state of Odisha also stopped vaccinations in 11 of its 30 districts, health officials told Reuters news agency.
Current estimates by two Indian vaccine manufacturers suggest that it will take two months or more to increase total monthly production from the current 70 million doses to 80 million doses.
Meanwhile, the UK announced new one billion pounds ($ 1.4 billion) of trade and investment with India, including a deal with the Serum Institute of India to help develop vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.
India, with the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing capacity, has partially or completely immunized about 9.5 percent of its 1.35 billion people, according to the state-run Co-WIN portal.