India Covid cases soar past 20 million as devastating second wave continues

Akshita Jain
·4-min read
Health worker attending a Covid-19 patient in India (AFP via Getty Images)
Health worker attending a Covid-19 patient in India (AFP via Getty Images)

The total number of Covid-19 infections in India crossed 20 million on Monday as the country reported 357,229 new cases in the 24 hours ending Tuesday morning.

India's infection tally is second only to the United States, which has reported more than 32 million cases. Experts believe even India’s huge reported figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much.

The country recorded 3,449 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the overall toll to 222,408.

It took India just over four months to add its second 10 million cases, versus more than 10 months for its first 10 million, according to Reuters.

India’s official average of newly confirmed cases per day has soared from over 65,000 on 1 April to about 370,000, and deaths per day have officially gone from over 300 to more than 3,000, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

The double mutant variant of the virus is thought to be fueling India’s deadlier second wave of Covid-19. Samples of the variant are being sent to London for wider studies on the effectiveness of the existing vaccines against it, according to The Indian Express.

On Tuesday, a government minister pointed to the addition of more than 355,000 cases as being an improvement on the recent 30 April peak of more than 400,000 cases.

But experts are deeply concerned that cases are still so high even as testing figures have fallen dramatically.

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Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health in the US, told the Associated Press he was concerned that Indian policymakers he has been in contact with believe things will improve in the next few days.

He said: “I’ve been trying to say to them, ‘If everything goes very well, things will be horrible for the next several weeks. And it may be much longer’.”

Rahul Gandhi, an opposition Congress party leader, tweeted that the only way to stop the spread of virus now is a full lockdown. “The government’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” he said.

US epidemiologist Anthony Fauci had also suggested a lockdown for a few weeks in India. He said a lockdown could have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak, according to news agency Press Trust of India.

In his address to the nation last month, prime minister Narendra Modi had ruled out the possibility of a countrywide lockdown. He said the focus should instead be on micro-containment zones.

At least 11 states and union territories in the country have imposed some form of restrictions. The national capital Delhi, which has seen weeks of unprecedented shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies, reported over 18,000 new cases on Monday and is set to remain under lockdown until at least 10 May.

The Indian state of Bihar ordered a lockdown on Tuesday till 15 May after the state reported 11,407 new Covid-19 cases and 82 deaths.

India has also suspended the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament in view of the surge in Covid-19 cases.

The IPL said in a statement: “These are difficult times, especially in India and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.”

India’s vaccination drive, which was expanded on 1 May to include all adults, is also struggling. A Reuters analysis noted daily inoculations have averaged 2.5 million since hitting a peak of 4.5 million on 5 April. The country has partially or fully vaccinated only 9.5 per cent of its population.

Pfizer said it is in discussion with the Indian government for an expedited approval pathway for its vaccine. As cases soared, India last month invited Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to seek licences for their Covid-19 vaccines in the country as soon as possible.

Emergency supplies continue to arrive in India from various countries.

An Italian team along with a doctor and health ministry representative landed in Delhi with an oxygen production machine on Monday, according to The Hindu. The fourth consignment of medical supplies also arrived from the UK, containing 60 ventilators. The US on Tuesday sent its fifth consignment, carrying 545 oxygen concentrators.

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