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May 11, 2021

Fewer tests or remedial measures?: New cases, deaths decline in India

NEW DELHI: Indian coronavirus infections and deaths seem to be on the decline on Monday, foreign media reported.

The 329,517new infections and 3,879 deaths were reported on Monday were off a little from recent peaks, taking India’s tally to 22,991 million with 250,025 deaths as hospitals run out of oxygen and beds and morgues and crematoria overflow. Last week more than 4,000 deaths and over 400,000 cases on daily basis were reported for some days.

Experts have said India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported.

Sunday’s 1.47 million tests for COVID-19 were this month’s lowest yet, data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research showed. The figure compared with a daily average of 1.7 million for the first eight days of May.

The number of positive results from the tests was not immediately clear, however.

Many states have imposed strict lockdowns over the last month while others have placed curbs on movement and shut cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.

There are increasing calls for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lock down the world’s second-most populous country as he did during the first wave of infections last year.

He is battling criticism for allowing huge gatherings at a religious festival and holding large election rallies during the past two months even as cases surged.

“A failure of governance of epic and historic proportions,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, said on Twitter.

Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the main opposition Congress party, blamed the government for abdicating its responsibility by leaving vaccinations to states, Reuters partner ANI said on Twitter.

Delhi’s health minister said the city was running out of vaccines, with just three to four days of supplies remaining of AstraZeneca (AZN.L), made by the Serum Institute of India and branded Covishield, the NDTV news channel reported. By Monday, the world’s largest vaccine-producing nation had fully vaccinated just over 34.8 million, or about 2.5%, of a population of about 1.35 billion, government data shows.

New Delhi entered a fourth week of lockdown, with tougher curbs such as the shutdown of the suburban rail network, while residents scrambled for scarce hospital beds and oxygen supplies.

“This is not the time to be lenient,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday. “This phase is so tough, this wave is so dangerous, so many people are dying…the priority at this hour is to save lives,” he said in a televised address.

The northern state of Uttarakhand said it would impose curfew from today (Tuesday) until May 18, just days after mass religious gatherings held in the state became virus super spreading events. Shops selling essential food items will stay open for some hours in the morning, while malls, gyms, theatres, bars and liquor shops are among the enterprises that will be shut, the government said. Organisers of the popular and lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament conceded the remaining games would have to be played overseas after having suspended the contest over the virus this month.

Health experts said that the coronavirus is likely spreading in India’s northeastern state of Assam faster than anywhere else in the country, authorities were preparing Monday for a surge in infections by converting a massive stadium and a university into hospitals.

Cases in Assam started ticking upward a month ago and the official seven-day weekly average in the state on May 9 stood at more than 4,700 cases. But a model run by the University of Michigan — which predicts the current spread of cases before they are actually detected — says infections in Assam are likely occurring as fast as any other place in the country.

Add to that recent elections in the state — and the huge political rallies that accompanied them — and experts fear a uncontrolled surge is on the horizon.

Worryingly, along with cities in India’s northeastern frontier — which is closer to Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan than it is New Delhi — cases have also started to spike in some remote Himalayan villages in the region.