Bodies of COVID-19 victims have been found dumped in some Indian rivers, a state government letter seen by Reuters says, in the first official acknowledgement of the alarming practice, which it said may stem from poverty and fear of the disease in remote areas.
Images of corpses drifting down the Ganges river, which is considered holy in Hinduism, have shocked the country, reeling under the world’s worst surge in COVID-19 cases.
Although media reports have linked the increase in the number of bodies found floating in the river and its tributaries in recent days to the pandemic, India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, home to 240 million people, has until now not publicly revealed the cause of the deaths, Reuters reported.
“The administration has information that bodies of those who have succumbed to COVID-19 or any other disease are being thrown into rivers instead of being disposed of as per proper rituals,” a senior state official, Manoj Kumar Singh, said in a letter dated May 14 to district heads that was reviewed by Reuters.
“As a result, bodies have been recovered from rivers in many places.”
Singh was not immediately reachable for comment.
The acknowledgment comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called on officials to strengthen healthcare resources in rural areas and step up surveillance as the virus spreads rapidly in those areas after ravaging the cities.
Uttar Pradesh, home to more people than Brazil or Pakistan, has been badly hit by India’s dramatic second surge in COVID-19 cases. Health experts say many cases are now going undetected in the villages of Uttar Pradesh, where most of its people live.
Singh in the memo to district heads said a lack of funds to buy materials like firewood for cremation, religious beliefs in some communities, and families abandoning COVID-19 victims for fear of the disease, were among the likely reasons for the surge in body dumpings, Reuters reported.
He asked village-level officials to ensure no corpses are thrown into water and said the state government would pay poor families of the dead 5,000 rupees ($68) each to cremate or bury bodies. The state has also asked police to patrol rivers to stop the practice.
India has been officially reporting around 4,000 deaths each day from the disease for nearly two weeks, but health experts say the toll is likely much higher due to poor testing in rural areas and other factors.
The jump in deaths has in many places led to backlogs at crematoriums and multiplied the cost of last rites.
Uttar Pradesh spokesman Navneet Sehgal on Saturday denied local media reports that as many as 2,000 corpses of potential COVID-19 victims had been recovered from rivers in the state and neighbouring Bihar in recent days.
“We keep recovering 10 to 20 bodies every now and then,” Sehgal told Reuters, adding that some riverside villages did not cremate their dead due to Hindu traditions during some periods of religious significance.
Bihar officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Global COVID-19 cases exceed 236 million, death toll hits 4.83 million
The cumulative total number of global COVID-19 cases has exceeded 236.5 million with the death toll hitting 4.83 million as of Friday, according to the latest data compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Specifically, there had been 236,599,025 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 4,831,486 deaths as of Wednesday, the WHO’s COVID-19 dashboard showed Monday.
In addition, a total of 6.3 billion vaccine doses had been administered across the world as of Saturday, according to the WHO.
The cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States topped 44.3 million as of Sunday, with the death toll surpassing 713,000, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The country’s case count rose to 44,338,297 on Sunday, and its death toll came to 713,154, the CSSE tally showed.
As of early Monday morning, a total of 400,352,880 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered across the United States, CSSE data showed.
Reuters reported that in Britain, another 34,574 people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing its total coronavirus cases to 8,154,306, according to official figures released Sunday.
The country also recorded another 38 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 137,735. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.
There are currently 6,763 patients in hospital in the UK with COVID-19.
Russia meanwhile confirmed 28,647 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the national tally to 7,775,365, the official monitoring and response center said Sunday.
The nationwide death toll grew by 962, close to a record number of 968 a day earlier, to 216,415. Recoveries increased by 17,274 to 6,858,119.
In Asia, India’s COVID-19 tally rose to 33,971,607 on Monday, as 18,132 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours across the country, showed the federal health ministry’s latest data.
The number of new cases recorded in a day are the lowest in the past 215 days, said a statement by the federal health ministry.
Besides, as many as 193 deaths from the pandemic since Sunday morning took the total death toll to 450,782.
U.S. COVID-19 cases surpass 44.2 million, death toll tops 710,000
The cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States topped 44.2 million as of Friday, with the death toll surpassing 712,000, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.
The country’s case count rose to 44,285,030 on Friday, and its death toll came to 712,646, the CSSE tally showed.
The Alaska state in northwestern America has recently witnessed a sharp surge in COVID-19 patients and a shortage of medical resources.
The state has become one of the country’s hardest-hit places by the pandemic, as reported by some local media on Friday.
In the past two weeks, the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States has increased by more than three times, and most of the new cases did not get vaccinated.
In addition, the rural area in Alaska is more vulnerable to the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that COVID-19 associated multisystem inflammatory syndrome cases in children has increased by 12 percent since late August, the largest growth so far this year.
Children take part in vaccine study as Pfizer seeks FDA approval
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech have asked U.S. regulators to authorize emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, a group for whom no shot is currently allowed, Pfizer said on Thursday (October 07), Reuters reported.
A trial to test vaccine safety on children took place at Duke University School of Medicine. Two of the children who took part, were 7 year old Lydia and her sister, 5 year old Bridgette.
Both of the girls were calm as they received their vaccinations, although Bridgette instructed her father to hold her hand, read the report.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a date of Oct. 26 for its panel of outside advisers to meet and discuss Pfiizer’s application, making it possible for children in this age group – numbering around 28 million – to begin receiving the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shortly afterward.
The vaccine already has won U.S. emergency use authorization in teens ages 12 to 15 and is fully approved by regulators for people ages 16 and up.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is one of three in use in the United States, along with the two-dose Moderna vaccine and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson version, neither of which has won full regulatory approval for any age group.
A rapid authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in young kids could help mitigate a potential surge of cases in the coming weeks and months, with schools open nationwide and colder weather driving activities indoors. If given regulatory authorization, the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would become the first COVID-19 shot made available to children 5 to 11 in the United States, Reuters reported.
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