Bodies lined up for cremation, amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, at Hindon river crematorium, Ghaziabad, April 20, 2021. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: India reported more than 2,000 deaths from COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, the highest single-day tally for the country so far, health ministry data showed on Wednesday. The last few weeks have seen India crossing its own COVID-19-related records multiple times, as the second surge of infections wreaks havoc across the country.
COVID-19 infections also rose by a record, increasing by 2,95,041 over the last 24 hours, the data showed. Total deaths reached 1,82,553.
Several states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, have also been accused of fudging COVID-19 death data and reporting lower numbers on purpose. It is possible that the actual number of deaths is even higher.
India’s overall case tally is now at 15.6 million, second only to the United States, which has over 31 million infections.
Registering a steady increase for the 42nd in a row, the active cases have increased to 21,57,538, comprising 13.82% of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has dropped to 85.01%.
Over the last few days, Indian social media has been rife with desperate pleas from COVID-affected people and their families looking for tests, hospital beds, oxygen and medication. On Tuesday, even the chief minister of Delhi took to Twitter to talk about how the city’s big hospitals will soon run out of oxygen supplies, putting thousands of patients at risk. Arvind Kejriwal, who is also suffering from COVID-19 himself, asked the Centre to intervene immediately and ensure that the requisite oxygen supplies were sent to the capital.
India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19. India crossed the grim milestone of 1.50 crore on April 19.
Amid the record rise in daily deaths and new infections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Tuesday night. However, many were left disappointed by the perceived lack of substance in his speech at a time when the nation is in crisis. Instead of talking about what steps the government will be taking, Modi asked states not to impose lockdowns unless it is the “last resort” – even though he himself had imposed a nationwide lockdown in March 2020, when the situation was much more manageable.
The Centre has also announced a new vaccination police from May 1, under which all people above the age of 18 will be eligible to get vaccinated. However, the policy also says that vaccine manufacturers and private vaccination providers will get to set their own price for half their output. And the government has not specified a cap.
Vaccine manufacturers will now be empowered to release up to 50% of their supply to state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price, the government has announced. States, too, have crucially now been asked to “procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers”. Opposition parties including the Congress and CPI(M) have said this new policy is putting all the responsibility on the states, at a time when the country is already facing a vaccine shortage.
India’s chief economic adviser K.V. Subramanian has said that the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 infections could peak in mid-May. He didn’t cite any specific studies but said, “I have read far more papers on epidemiology than on economics,” and that he came to his conclusion based on “some very nice mathematical modelling of the pandemic by IIT Kanpur and based on some of the research put out by ICMR, etc.”
(With agency inputs)