On a day when India's daily coronavirus surge hit a record daily high with over 2 lakh infections and the active caseload surpassed the 14 lakh mark, several states doubled down with lockdown-like restrictions of varying degrees, while others urged the population to follow health guidelines.
The states of Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and the National Capital Territory of Delhi were among states that imposed partial restrictions on movement and marketplaces. Meanwhile, Uttarakhand, which is hosting a religious congregation of lakhs of people in the midst of a pandemic, saw over 1,700 cases in the Kumbh Mela area alone within five days, while the state recorded 2,200
Several more states and the International Baccalaureate followed after a bunch of board exam administrationsm, including the Central Board of Secondary Education, and postponed all exams.
In other news, states which are experiencing a huge surge scrambled to work around shortages in beds, oxygen supplies and key medications. Centre has also urged state administrations to minimise wastage of oxygen as its demand rose sharply within just past one week.
A total of 2,00,739 new COVID-19 cases have been registered in a span of 24 hours. The death toll increased to 1,73,123 with 1,038 daily new fatalities, the highest since 3 October 2020 the data updated at 8 am showed.
Registering a steady increase for the 36th day in a row, the active cases have increased to 14,71,877, comprising 10.46per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has dropped to 88.31 percent.
10 states, including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, show steep rise
Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan have shown a steep rise in COVID-19 daily cases, accounting for 80.76 percent of the new infections reported in a day, the Union Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Maharashtra reported the highest number of daily cases at 58,952 and it is followed by Uttar Pradesh with 20,439 cases and Delhi with 17,282 new cases, it said. India's total active cases reached 14,71,877 and now comprises 10.46 per cent of the country's total infections.
A net increase of 1,06,173 cases has been recorded in the total active cases in a span of 24 hours.
Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala cumulatively account for 67.16 percent of India's total active cases, the ministry said. It said that Maharashtra alone accounts for 43.54 per cent of the country's total active cases.
India's cumulative recoveries have surged to 1,24,29,564 with93,528 recoveries being registered in a span of 24 hours. The ministry said 1,038 deaths were reported in a day and 10 states account for 82.27 per cent of the new fatalities. Maharashtra saw the highest number of deaths (278). Chhattisgarh follows with 120 daily deaths, it said.
Curbs in Delhi, UP, Chattisgarh
In just a matter of weeks, Delhi has become the worst-hit city in the country, surpassing Mumbai in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Delhi recorded 16,699 fresh cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and 112 fatalities from the infection a frightening positivity rate of 20.22 per cent, the highest ever since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a weekend curfew and the closure of malls, gymnasiums and auditoriums till 30 April as part of sweeping restrictions to break the chain of the COVID infections in the city. In-house dining in restaurants has been barred while home delivery and take-away services have been allowed till 30 April.
A night curfew is already in place in the city from 10 pm to 5 am till 30 April to check the spread of coronavirus infections. There is also a weekend lockdown in place.
The Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday shut all schools till 15 May and postponed exams for board classes as the state reported its highest-single day spike od 22,439 cases.
The government also ordered to lodge a case against the hospitals who turn down patients sent on the recommendations of district magistrates and chief medical officers. According to a government statement, the government imposed an 11-hour night curfew with immediate effect in 10 districts having more than 2,000 active COVID-19 cases.
The Odisha government has announced a night curfew in the urban areas in the state from Friday. Ten districts bordering Chhattisgarh will also go under weekend lockdown, India Today reported.
The night curfew in the urban areas of 20 districts, including Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, will be effective from 9 pm to 5 am, starting Friday.
Meanwhile, the timing of the night curfew in the 10 districts bordering Chhattisgarh has been extended. The night curfew in these districts will be observed from 6 PM to 5 am instead of 10 pm to 5 am.
The Chhatisgarh government has decided to impose an 11-day lockdown in Bijapur district from 16 to 26 April.
Overburdened crematoriums, hospitals contradict official claims
Hospitals across India are reporting a shortage of beds, oxygen, remdesivir injections. Cremation grounds are seeing pyres burning 24x7 hours while burial grounds were reportedly running out of space. Social media was flooded with requests for plasma donation and crucial drugs.
In view of the increasing demand for medical oxygen, the Union Health Ministry said a tender will be finalised for the import of 50,000 MT of medical oxygen and possible sources will be identified by MEA.
Amid reports of oxygen shortage, Maharashtra, which is facing the worst of India's second wave, asked private hospital with more than 50 beds should set up an oxygen generation plant.
Hospitals with less than 50 beds have been asked to procure oxygen concentrators, which can increase the supply of oxygen to patients, the minister said. The state COVID-19 task force members and experts have pointed out that the overuse of oxygen cylinders was creating a shortage of life-saving gas.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking permission under the National Disaster Management Act to airlift oxygen from steel plants in eastern and southern parts of the country. Thackeray said that the state's active caseload will more than double within the next 15 days.
In Uttar Pradesh, images of overburdened crematoriums went viral, after which authorities scrambled to cover the area with tin sheets to shield them from view and to prevent people from shooting videos and pictures.
This video had gone viral on social media after which the government authorities tried to cover up the site, inviting criticism from Opposition.
An article in NDTV reported a similar situation in Delhi with the number of daily cremations at the city's biggest ghat going up by double. People claimed they had to wait for six to seven hours before their turn arrived as Each ambulance was reportedly bringing over two to three bodies at once.
At Delhi's biggest graveyard near ITO, a JCB excavator could be seen being used to constantly dig up more graves but it is also fast running out of space, the report states.
Meanwhile, as cases spiked in the National Capital, social media exploded with requests for plasma, remdesivir, hospital beds and other supplies. Some claimed that while the Delhi Corona app showed that beds are available in certain hospitals in the city, the situation on the ground is different. Hospitals are not admitting patients as they have run out of beds, they said.
Many even tagged Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia in their tweets to draw attention to their plight.
The Delhi Corona app allows people to check the availability of beds in government and private hospitals in the national capital.
Another article in Reuters contradicted Kejriwal's claims that the National Capital was not facing any shortage of space in hospitals. The report claimed that COVID patients were made to share beds in COVID hospitals as healthcare workers struggled to administer care to the steady flow of critical patients streaming in.
"Unrelated patients share beds, while bodies of the recently deceased lie outside the ward before being taken to the mortuary," the article said of Delhi's Lok Nayak Hospital.
In Gujarat, the situation was no better as the state reported the highest spike of 7,410 fresh COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours while a record 73 patients died.
Caravan reported that Surat crematoriums were barely keeping up. It quoted relatives of people who succumbed to the disease as saying that they were waiting for hours outside crematoriums before their turn arrived. Hospitals too were bursting at the seems; worried family members are hapless as hospital staff are unable to give updates on patients health.
"They told me to stop calling them. They said that they were waiting for patients to die so that a bed clears up for the next patient in line," the article quoted a woman as saying.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people lined up at the out-patient block in the scorching afternoon heat to buy remdesivir, an antiviral drug doctors are using to treat hospitalised COVID-19 patients.
With inputs from PTI