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May 5, 2021

India reports 3,448 more corona deaths

Top Story

 
May 5, 2021

ISLAMABAD: India halted its hugely popular cricket league on Tuesday as COVID-19 infections surged past 20 million in the world’s second-most populous country and the opposition leader said a nationwide lockdown was now the only way out.

Cricket officials suspended the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) as the pandemic spirals out of control, with the country adding 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.

“While we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times,” the IPL said.

With over 3.49 million active cases, India recorded 362,738 new infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 3,448 to 225,831, health ministry data showed.

With hospitals running out of beds and oxygen and morgues and crematoria overflowing, experts say the actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher, international media reported.

“The only way to stop the spread of corona now is a full lockdown ... GOI’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to the government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, widely criticised for allowing religious festivals and political gatherings attended by hundreds of thousands of largely unmasked people, is reluctant to impose a national lockdown for fear of the economic fallout, but several states have imposed social curbs.

The eastern state of Bihar ordered a lockdown until May 15, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said. With more than 100,000 infections, its death toll is nearing 3,000, government figures show.

The IPL tournament, with an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion, was being played without spectators to a huge television audience in the cricket-obsessed nation but has been severely criticised for continuing while the healthcare system is falling apart.

The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant of the coronavirus has swamped hospitals and depleted supplies of oxygen, while sufferers have died in ambulances and car parks.

Rows of funeral pyres set up in parks and other open spaces are being used to cremate the overflow of corpses. A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals seeking oxygen and invoking India’s constitutional right to protection of life.

But some hope surfaced in comments on Monday by a health ministry official who said infections in some regions were levelling out.

India’s surge has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations due to supply and delivery problems.

At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, reported scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.

In Modi’s adjoining home state of Gujarat, the three largest cities of Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara limited vaccines to those aged between 18 and 44, officials said. The eastern state of Odisha also halted vaccinations in 11 of its 30 districts, health officials told Reuters.

Forecasts by India’s two current vaccine producers show it will take two months or more to boost total monthly output from the current 70 million to 80 million doses.

Meanwhile, a top expert warned that the coming weeks in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people will be “horrible.”

India’s top health official, Rajesh Bhushan, refused to speculate last month as to why authorities weren’t better prepared. But the cost is clear: Many people are dying because of shortages of bottled oxygen and hospital beds or because they couldn’t get a COVID-19 test.

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

Jha said the focus needs to be on “classic” public health measures: targeted shutdowns, more testing, universal mask-wearing and avoiding large gatherings. “That is what’s going to break the back of this surge,” he said.