India’s COVID-19 death toll has risen by more than 4,000 for a second consecutive day amid mounting calls for a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus

 

People wearing PPE stand around a deceased relative

India’s COVID-19 death toll has risen by more than 4,000 for a second consecutive day amid mounting calls for a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

Key points:

  • India is estimated to see 1 million COVID-19 deaths by August
  • Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown
  • Only 2.5 per cent of India’s population has received both shots of a COVID-19 vaccine

India’s health ministry reported 4,092 fatalities over the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to 242,362.

New cases rose by 403,738, just shy of the record and increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 22.3 million.

India has been hit hard by a second COVID-19 wave, with cases and deaths hitting record highs every other day.

With an acute shortage of oxygen and beds in many hospitals and morgues and crematoriums overflowing, experts have said the actual numbers for COVID-19 cases and fatalities could be far higher.

Many Indian states have imposed strict lockdowns over the past month to stem the surge in infections while others have announced restrictions on public movement and shut down cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.

But pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown similar to the one imposed during the first wave last year.

India on Saturday reported its highest ever single-day COVID-19 death toll of 4,187 fatalities.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see 1 million COVID-19 deaths by August.

People wait in a queue with large oxygen cylinders

People wait in a queue with large oxygen cylinders People queue to refill oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 patients at a gas supplier facility in New Delhi.(AP: Ishant Chauhan

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Support has been pouring in from around the world in the form of oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and other medical equipment for overwhelmed hospitals.

India’s Supreme Court said it would set up a national task force consisting of top experts and doctors to conduct an “oxygen audit” to determine whether supplies from the federal government were reaching states.

Complaints of oxygen shortages have recently dominated the top court, which stepped in earlier this week to make sure the federal government provided more medical oxygen to hospitals in capital New Delhi.

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India’s vaccination campaign falters

The country’s massive vaccination drive kicked off sluggishly in January when cases were low and exports of vaccines were high, with 64 million doses going overseas.

But as infections started to rise in March and April, India’s exports drastically slowed down so doses went to its own population, reaching daily record highs.

So far, about 10 per cent of India’s population have received one shot while just under 2.5 per cent have got both.

At its peak in early April, India was administering a record high of 3.5 million shots a day on average. But this number has consistently shrunk since, reaching an average of 1.3 million shots a day over the past week.

Between April 6 and May 6, daily doses have dropped by 38 per cent, even as cases have tripled and deaths have jumped sixfold, according to Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan who has been tracking India’s epidemic.

One reason for the drop in shots is that there are just not enough available, experts say.

An elderly woman receives the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19

An elderly woman receives the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19Only about 10 per cent of India’s population have received one shot.(AP: Anupam Nath

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Currently, India’s two vaccine makers produce an estimated 70 million doses each month of the two approved shots — AstraZeneca, made by the Serum Institute of India, and another by Bharat Biotech.

Vaccine supply has remained nearly the same throughout, but the target population eligible has increased threefold, Chandrakant Lahariya, a health policy expert, said.

“In the beginning, India had far more assured supply available than the demand, but now the situation has reversed,” he added.


 

 

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