Calls yesterday grew for India to impose a nationwide lockdown as new COVID-19 cases and deaths held close to record highs, increasing pressure on the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths reported by the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare were off a little from recent peaks, taking India’s tally to 22.66 million with 246,116 deaths.
As many hospitals grapple with an acute shortage of oxygen and beds while morgues and crematoriums overflow, experts have said that India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported.
Sunday’s 1.47 million tests for COVID-19 were this month’s lowest yet, data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research showed. The figure compared with a daily average of 1.7 million for the first eight days of this month.
The number of positive results from the tests was not immediately clear.
Many states have imposed strict lockdowns over the past month while others have placed curbs on movement and shut cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.
Pressure is mounting on Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown as he did during the first wave of infections last year.
He is battling criticism for allowing huge gatherings at a religious festival and holding large election rallies during the past two months even as cases surged.
“A failure of governance of epic and historic proportions,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, wrote on Twitter.
On Sunday, top White House coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci said that he had advised Indian authorities they needed to shut down.
“You’ve got to shut down,” Fauci said on ABC’s This Week. “I believe several of the Indian states have already done that, but you need to break the chain of transmission, and one of the ways to do that is to shut down.”
The Indian Medical Association has also called for a “complete, well-planned, pre-announced” lockdown.
New Delhi, the capital, entered a fourth week of lockdown, with tougher curbs such as the shutdown of the suburban rail network, while residents scrambled for scarce hospital beds and oxygen supplies.
“This is not the time to be lenient,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.
“This phase is so tough, this wave is so dangerous, so many people are dying ... the priority at this hour is to save lives,” he said in a televised address.
Late on Sunday, the northern state of Uttarakhand said it would impose a curfew from today until Tuesday next week, just days after mass religious gatherings in the state became virus super spreading events.
Shops selling fruits, vegetables and dairy items would stay open for some hours in the morning, while malls, gyms, theaters, bars and liquor shops are among the enterprises that would be shut, the government said.
Global support, in the form of oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and other medical gear, has poured in.
US company Eli Lilly and Co said it signed licensing deals with Indian drugmakers, such as Cipla Ltd , Lupin and Sun Pharma to make and sell its arthritis drug baricitinib for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
India’s drug regulator has approved the drug for restricted emergency use in combination with remdesivir for hospitalized adult patients in need of supplemental oxygen.
By Sunday, the world’s largest vaccine-producing nation had fully vaccinated just more than 34.3 million, or only 2.5 percent, of its population of about 1.35 billion, government data showed.
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