A health worker walks past a row of bodies of Covid-19 victims waiting to be cremated in New Delhi, India. Picture: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI
A health worker walks past a row of bodies of Covid-19 victims waiting to be cremated in New Delhi, India. Picture: REUTERS/ADNAN ABIDI

New Delhi — India accounted for nearly half of the Covid-19 cases reported worldwide last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, as the country’s coronavirus deaths rose by a record 3,780 during the last 24 hours.

The WHO said in its weekly epidemiological report that India accounted for 46% of global cases and 25% of global deaths reported in the past week.

Daily infections in the country rose by 382,315 on Wednesday, health ministry data showed, the 14th straight day of more than 300,000 cases.

India’s second deadly surge of Covid-19 has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen and left morgues and crematoriums overflowing. Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave of the virus. Religious festivals and political rallies have attracted tens of thousands of people in super spreader events.

“We need a government. Desperately. And we don’t have one. We are running out of air. We are dying,” wrote Indian author Arundhati Roy in an opinion piece published on Tuesday calling for Modi to step down. “This is a crisis of your making. You cannot solve it. You can only make it worse ... So please go. It is the most responsible thing for you to do. You have forfeited the moral right to be our prime minister.”

Two “oxygen express” trains reached the capital Delhi on Wednesday carrying desperately needed liquid oxygen, minister of railways Piyush Goyal said on Twitter. More than 25 trains have delivered oxygen to different parts of India so far.

India’s government says there are enough oxygen supplies but distribution has been hindered by transport problems.

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.

India’s surge in infections 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, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.

Non-Covid patients evicted

India’s opposition has called for a nationwide lockdown, but the government is reluctant to impose a shutdown for fear of the economic fallout, though several states have imposed social curbs.

India’s central bank asked banks on Wednesday to let certain borrowers have more time to repay loans as the surge in infections affects a nascent economic revival.

In the remote state of Mizoram, which borders Myanmar, beds are in such short supply in Zoram Medical College, the state’s biggest Covid-19 hospital, that all non-Covid patients have been asked to leave, said government official Dr ZR Thiamsanga.

Only three out of 14 ventilators are still available.

“In my opinion, a complete lockdown is required to control the situation,” Thiamsanga said.

Medical experts say the actual numbers of dead and infected in India could be five to 10 times the official tallies. The country added 10-million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10-million.

Daily testing in India has fallen sharply to 1.5 million, state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Wednesday. It hit a peak of 1.95-million on Saturday.

Public health experts believe India will not reach herd immunity any time soon but say hospitalisations and deaths will fall  significantly in six to nine months, according to a report in The Economic Times.

Cricket officials suspended the hugely popular, money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday as players tested positive. India’s cricket board will help move Australia’s entire IPL cohort to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the coming days, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley said on Wednesday.

Australia has banned travellers from India who have been in the country within the prior 14 days but Hockley said the players would wait outside India for approval to head home.

Eight Asiatic lions at an Indian zoo in the southern state of Hyderabad have contracted the coronavirus, the government said on Tuesday, adding that there is no evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans.

Reuters

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