India’s Covid tally soars past 20 mln

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-Rahul Gandhi calls for national lockdown

DM Monitoring

NEW DELHI: India’s total Covid caseload soared past 20 million on Tuesday, official data showed, as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the country’s hospitals.
In the past 24 hours, India added 357,229 cases, taking the total to 20.3 million, according to the health ministry. Deaths rose 3,449 to 222,408. Many experts suspect the true number to be much higher.
India has added around eight million new cases since the end of March in a ferocious new wave blamed on virus variants and the government having allowed most activities to resume as well as huge religious and political gatherings.
This has overwhelmed India’s chronically underfunded health care system, leading to dire shortages of hospital beds, drugs and oxygen, with patients dying outside packed clinics in New Delhi and elsewhere.
The daily number of new cases has, however, declined in recent days, having peaked at 402,000 on Friday.
“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 on Monday. “But these are very early signals. There is a need to further analyse it and make related efforts to monitor it on a continued basis,” he added.
Meanwhile, Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi demands a nationwide lockdown as the country’s coronavirus infections toll crossed 20 million on Tuesday. The country has become the second nation after the United States to pass the grim milestone.
Medical experts say actual numbers in India could be five to 10 times higher than those reported. “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 fallout, 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.
Rows of funeral pyres in parks and carparks cremate the overflow of corpses.
India has postponed exams for trainee doctors and nurses in a desperate effort to fight the infections sweeping across the world’s second-most populous country.
Modi has been criticized for not moving sooner to limit the latest wave of infections and for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies during March and April.
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 70-80 million doses would increase only in two months or more, although the number of people eligible for vaccines has doubled to an estimated 800 million since May 1.
Just 9.5% of the population of 1.35 billion has received at least a single dose.
India has invited Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc to sell their vaccines to the country but none have applied to do so yet.
Pfizer has told the Indian government that there was no concern over the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine, as the country insists on small local trials for foreign shots despite a record surge in infections and shortage of doses.
International aid continued to arrive in India on Tuesday, with 545 oxygen concentrators from the United States landing, the fifth in a series of consignments carrying medical equipment.