2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) stand outside a placement area at a COVID-19 care facility, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, May 4, 2021. REUTERS / Niharika Kulkarni 2/2
By Tanvi Mehta (Reuters) – India accounted for nearly half of reported coronavirus cases worldwide last week, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, as the South Asian nation’s deaths rose by a record of 3,780 during the last 24 hours. In a weekly report, the WHO said India accounted for 46% of global cases and 25% of global deaths reported last week. Daily infections rose by 382,315 on Wednesday for a fourteenth consecutive day of infections that exceeded 300,000, data from the Health Ministry showed. Hospitals are searching for beds and oxygen as they desperately battle a deadly second wave of infections, while morgues and crematoriums struggle to cope with a seemingly unstoppable flow of bodies. Many people have died in ambulances and parking lots waiting for a bed or oxygen. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been widely criticized for failing to act early to suppress the second wave, as religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people at high-profile events. “We need a government. Desperately. And we don’t have one. We are running out of air. We are dying,” wrote Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy in an opinion piece calling for Modi’s resignation. “This is a crisis of your making,” he added in the article published Tuesday. “You can’t solve it. You can only make it worse … So please go away. It’s the most responsible thing you can do. You have lost the moral right to be our prime minister.” India’s delegation at the Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in London is self-isolating after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19, Britain said on Wednesday. Chancellor Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is in London, said in a Twitter message that he would attend virtually. However, Sky News broadcaster said Jaishankar did not test positive for the virus. Neighboring Nepal is being overwhelmed by a wave of infections as the Indian outbreak spreads across South Asia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said. With 57 times more cases than a month ago, Nepal is seeing 44% of the tests come back positive, he added. Cities near the Indian border cannot cope with the growing number of people seeking treatment, while only 1% of their population was fully vaccinated. However, medical experts say that the actual figures for India could be five to ten times the official figures. The country has added 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach its first 10 million. Two “oxygen express” trains carrying life-saving gas in liquid form arrived in the capital New Delhi on Wednesday, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said on Twitter. More than 25 trains have distributed oxygen supplies across the country. The government says gas supplies are sufficient, but transportation problems have hampered distribution. VACCINE DROP, TESTING The surge in infections in India has coincided with a drastic drop in vaccines due to supply and delivery problems. At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a vaccine shortage and closed some vaccination centers. Daily tests have dropped sharply to 1.5 million, the state-run Indian Medical Research Council said on Wednesday, down from a high of 1.95 million on Saturday. The opposition has called for a national shutdown, but the government is reluctant to impose it for fear of economic consequences, although several states have adopted social restrictions. The central bank asked banks on Wednesday to allow more time for some borrowers to pay as the rising infection threatens a nascent economic revival. In the remote state of Mizoram, on the border with Myanmar, beds at its largest coronavirus hospital are so sparse that all victims of other diseases have been asked to leave, government official Dr. ZR Thiamsanga said. . Only three out of a total of 14 fans are still available. “In my opinion, a complete lockdown is required to control the situation,” he told Reuters from the state capital Aizawl. Public health experts believe that India will not achieve herd immunity anytime soon, although hospitalizations and deaths will decline within six to nine months, the Economic Times newspaper said. Herd immunity is achieved when a sufficiently large part of the population has been vaccinated or infected, generating antibodies, so that an infected person can, theoretically, infect less than one person, stopping the spread of the virus. Cricket officials suspended the highly popular and profitable Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday when players tested positive. India’s cricket board will help move the entire IPL cohort from Australia to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the coming days, Cricket Australia chief Nick Hockley said on Wednesday. Australia has banned travelers from India from being in the country for the previous 14 days, but Hockley said players would wait outside India for approval to return home.