A coronavirus patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Sikh temple, under a tent along the roadside in Ghaziabad [Prakash Singh/AFP]
A coronavirus patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Sikh temple, under a tent along the roadside in Ghaziabad [Prakash Singh/AFP]

India’s COVID cases rise by record 414,188; deaths swell by 3,915

India has reported a record daily rise in coronavirus cases of 414,188, while deaths from COVID-19 swelled by 3,915, according to the health ministry data.

India’s total coronavirus infections now stand at 21.49 million, while its total fatalities have reached 234,083, the ministry said on Friday, according to Al Jazeera.

The South Asian nation which is battling a ferocious second wave of coronavirus has added 1.57 million cases and just over 15,100 deaths this week alone.

Experts believe both the number of daily cases as well as deaths are an undercount.

K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific adviser to the government, described the explosion of cases “a very critical time for the country” and warned of an “inevitable” third wave.

Modi faces growing pressure for lockdown as India’s COVID-19 cases soar

Photo: Associated Press
Photo: Associated Press

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced growing pressure to impose a strict nationwide lockdown, despite the economic pain it will exact, as a startling surge in coronavirus cases that has pummeled the country’s health system shows no signs of abating.

Many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections, according to Associated Press.

Indian television stations broadcast images of patients lying on stretchers outside hospitals waiting to be admitted, with hospital beds and critical oxygen in short supply. People infected with COVID-19 in villages are being treated in makeshift outdoor clinics, with IV drips hanging from trees.

As deaths soar, crematoriums and burial grounds have been swamped with bodies, and relatives often wait hours to perform the last rites for their loved ones.

The situation is so dramatic that among those calling for a strict lockdown are merchants who know their businesses will be affected but see no other way out.

“Only if our health is good, will we be able to earn,” said Aruna Ramjee, a florist in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. “The lockdown will help everyone, and coronavirus spread will also come down.”

The government provided free wheat, rice and lentils to the poorest for nearly a year and also small cash payments, while Modi also vowed an economic relief package of more than $260 billion. But the lockdown, imposed on four hours’ notice, also stranded tens of millions of migrant workers who were left jobless and fled to villages, with many dying along the way.

The national restrictions caused the economy to contract by a staggering 23% in the second quarter last year, though a strong recovery was under way before infections skyrocketed recently.

The volunteers answering Covid SOS calls from India's sick and dying

Photo: Wall Street Journal
Photo: Wall Street Journal

Srinivas B.V. barely sleeps at night. His phone rings 24 hours a day with cries of help from Indians begging for oxygen supplies, ventilators, hospital beds -- whatever he can provide.

"If we miss a call, we call back and ask what we can do," said Srinivas, who leads the youth wing of the opposition Indian National Congress party, according to CNN.

Earlier this week, Srinivas and his team rushed an oxygen cylinder to the New Delhi home of a woman whose father was suffering from Covid-19. Despite their best efforts, the man died later that night. Scared, alone and Covid-positive herself, the woman had nobody to help cremate her father's body -- so Srinivas's team arranged an ambulance and facilitated the cremation.

India's second wave has consumed the country. In the past 30 days alone, India has reported more than 8.3 million new cases, including 412,262 on Thursday, its highest ever daily surge.

Experts and patients say India's worst-hit cities feel like warzones. Hospitals are so full that patients share beds or lie on the floor. Many die before they see a doctor. Communities and volunteers have set up makeshift clinics -- rows of plastic chairs and mattresses under tarpaulins, where patients lie gasping for air in the sweltering heat.

To meet the surge in demand, Srinivas and his team are among 1,000 members of the youth wing working day and night around the country, including 100 in the capital New Delhi.

"(People) are not having access to oxygen, nor hospital beds," said Manu Jain, the national convenor of the youth wing. "No infrastructure is there. The government is nowhere. The system has completely collapsed, so people are on their own right now."

The Indian government issued a strong denial of any delay in distributing aid and medical supplies on Tuesday evening, saying nearly 4 million donated items, spanning 24 categories, have already been distributed to 38 health care facilities across the country.

*****READ MORE: India Covid-19 Daily Update: High-Tech Hunt For Scarce COVID-19 Vaccines

India’s vaccinations decline as its virus outbreak reaches new highs

A vaccination center at a school in New Delhi on Wednesday. Credit...Tauseef Mustafa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
A vaccination center at a school in New Delhi on Wednesday. Credit...Tauseef Mustafa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As India recorded a single-day high in new coronavirus cases on Thursday, its vaccination campaign has been marred by shortages and states are competing against one another to get doses, limiting the government’s hope that the country can soon emerge from a devastating outbreak.

The Indian health ministry recorded about 410,000 cases in 24 hours, a new global high, and 3,980 deaths, the highest daily death toll in any country outside the United States. Experts believe the number of actual infections and deaths is much higher, New York Times reported.

India’s pace of vaccinations has become a source of global concern as its outbreak devastates the nation and spreads into neighboring countries, and as a variant first identified there begins to be found around the world. The outbreak has prompted India to keep vaccine doses produced by its large drug manufacturing industry at home instead of exporting them, slowing down vaccination campaigns elsewhere.

In an effort to make doses more widely available within India, the authorities have allowed states and private health care providers to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers. But that has left state governments competing with one another for doses, and experts say it has added more troubles to a sluggish rollout. The authorities in Delhi, the capital, and several states have said they had to delay the expansion of vaccine access to younger age groups because of shortages.

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