AFP/ New Delhi
India’s coronavirus caseload topped 20mn yesterday as the relentless surge finally forced the suspension of the nation’s lucrative cricket competition involving some of the sport’s biggest global stars.
India’s virus caseload surged past 20mn with more than 350,000 new cases reported yesterday while it recorded 3,449 new deaths, higher than anywhere else.
But the number of new infections fell from the peak of 402,000 last week, giving some cause for optimism that the worst of the devastating wave may have passed.
India’s healthcare infrastructure has struggled to cope.
Rickshaw driver Mohamed Javed Khan in the central 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 Rs5,000-Rs10,000,” said Khan, who sold his wife’s jewellery to equip the rickshaw with medical equipment.
Bihar, a state of around 120mn people, yesterday became the latest Indian region to impose a lockdown.
The wave in India - spurred by huge gatherings including a Hindu festival - has highlighted the danger of Covid-19, which has already claimed more than 3.2mn lives worldwide.
“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.”
Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has called for a nationwide lockdown.
“The only way to stop the spread of Corona now is a full lockdown...GOI’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” Congress MP Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to the government of India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown due to the economic fall out, yet several states have imposed various social restrictions.
The surge in cases of the highly infectious Indian variant of Covid-19 has swamped the health system, drained supplies of medical oxygen vital for survival for those infected, and seen patients dying in ambulances and carparks outside hospitals.
India has postponed exams for trainee doctors and nurses in a desperate effort to fight the infections sweeping across the country.
Modi has been criticised for not moving sooner to limit the latest wave of infections.
“What the recent weeks reveal is that both Centre and states have been woefully unprepared for the second wave,” an editorial in the Times of India said yesterday. The surge in Covid-19 in India has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations, due to problems with supplies and delivery.
Despite being the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, India does not have enough for itself.
Public forecasts by its only two current vaccine producers show their total monthly output of 70mn-80mn doses would increase only in two months or more, although the number of people eligible for vaccines has doubled to an estimated 800mn since May 1.
Just 9.5% of the population of 1.35bn has received at least a single dose.
Eight lions in zoo test positive for coronavirus
Eight Asiatic lions at an Indian zoo have contracted the coronavirus, the government said yesterday, adding that there was no evidence that animals could transmit the disease to humans. Zoo authorities in Hyderabad shared samples with a government research laboratory on March 24 after the lions showed signs of respiratory distress. The test results come amid a huge surge in coronavirus infections among humans in India. “Based on experience with zoo animals elsewhere in the world that have experienced Sars-CoV-2 positive last year, there is no factual evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans any further,” the ministry of environment, forest and climate change said.
The Nehru Zoological Park has now been closed, it said in a statement
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