Reuters/ New Delhi
India yesterday reported 44,230 new Covid-19 cases, the most in three weeks, the latest evidence of a worrying trend of rising cases that has forced one state to lock down amid fears of another wave of infections.
India was battered by the Delta variant of the virus in April and May but the rate of spread of infections later eased off.
It has again been rising, with higher numbers in seven of the past eight days.
The nationwide tally of infections has reached 31.57mn, according to health ministry data.
Deaths rose by 555 overnight, taking the overall toll to 423,217.
Medical experts polled by Reuters in late June said a third wave of coronavirus infections was likely to hit India by October, though it would be better controlled than the devastating April-May outbreak.
Health experts have called for faster vaccinations to stave off another big surge.
The government estimates that 67.6% of the 1.35bn population already have antibodies against the coronavirus, with nearly 38% of the adult population of about 944mn people having received at least one vaccine dose.
The disease’s estimated reproduction rate, or R value, has also inched up in the past week,
The R value hit 1 on July 24 — meaning on average, every 10 people infected will infect 10 other people — for the first time since May when daily infections were near a peak of 400,000.
The southern state of Kerala announced a new lockdown on Thursday while movement restrictions are in place in some northeastern states reporting a rise in infection rates.
Meanwhile, the Serum Institute of India (SII) yesterday said it had partnered with an industry body to expand the reach of Covid-19 shots in India’s countryside as it had “plenty of supply” of the AstraZeneca drug.
While some 452mn vaccine doses have been administered, the pace of inoculations in rural areas, where two-thirds of India’s 1.35bn people live, has lagged that of urban centres.
SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker, will be working with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which has set up vaccination camps in smaller towns and rural areas.
“While SII has manufactured the vaccine at scale within a short period of time, it is essential that all stakeholders work together towards carrying out the inoculations,” CEO Adar Poonawalla said about its version of the AstraZeneca drug known as Covishield.
SII stopped all vaccine exports in April to meet India’s own demand and has forecast resuming foreign shipments only towards end-2021.
Its monthly Covishield production is expected to nearly double to 120mn doses from April levels.
“India’s post-pandemic growth critically rests on how soon the eligible population is vaccinated and economic activities can return to normal,” said CII president T V Narendran.
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