A picture taken with a drone shows people carrying the body of a man who died due to COVID-19 for burial at a graveyard in New Delhi, April 7, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
New Delhi: India reported a record 115,736 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a 13-fold increase in just over two months, raising pressure on the government to expand its vaccination campaign.
Some states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra, have complained of a scarcity of vaccines during a second wave of the pandemic that has forced some centres to turn away people, though only people aged over 45 are being immunised.
“Vaccination centres have to close early due to a shortage of supplies,” the western state’s health minister, Rajesh Tope, told reporters, adding that stocks would run out in three days after the daily injection of over 450,000 doses.
India’s health ministry has told states it replenishes doses based on immunisation patterns, and that supplies are adequate.
Maharashtra has for weeks accounted for over half India’s daily new cases, which on Monday passed 100,000 for the first time. The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as shops and offices reopened.
Maharashtra has urged the government to expand the vaccination campaign to younger people and to divert medical oxygen from other regions, Tope said. The federal health ministry says it has sent teams to Maharashtra and other badly affected states to understand their issues and concerns.
Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab and Karnataka states have in recent days imposed new restrictions to control the spread of infections, including night curfews.
The federal government has refused to impose any national lockdown. The previous one last year devastated the economy and left millions of people penniless.
‘No scope for complacency’
The number of cases since the first recorded infection in India just over a year ago stands at 12.8 million, making it the third worst hit country after the US and Brazil.
Deaths from COVID-19 in India rose by 630 – the most in four days – to 166,177, according to new health ministry data.
Daily infections have also passed last September’s peak. A multi-month low of 8,635 cases was hit in early February.
“The pandemic isn’t over and there is no scope for complacency,” Indian health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter, urging people to get vaccinated and behave appropriately.
Many states have criticised the government as India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has restricted its immunisation drive to some 400 million of its 1.35 billion people.
It has so far administered 86 million doses, 90% of those the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India. The rest have come from Indian company Bharat Biotech which has developed a vaccine with a government research body.
Both vaccines require two doses. More than 75 million people in India have received at least one dose. Only the United States and China have administered more doses.
With the contagion accelerating, India is racing to increase immunity among its people. It has delayed exports of large quantities of vaccines, though 64.5 million does have already been shipped.
“We are supposed to be the pharmacy of the world, what kind of pharmacy is this that cannot provide vaccines to even a small portion of its people?” said a government official who declined to be named. “How long can you justify this situation to your people?”
(Reuters – reporting by Krishna N. Das, Rajendra Jadhav, Rama Venkat, Jatindra Dash, Sanjeev Miglani, Neha Arora, Chandini Monnappa and Nivedita Bhattacharjee; editing by Shri Navaratnam, Simon Cameron-Moore and Timothy Heritage)