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India reports another record daily rise in COVID-19 infections

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

India reported a record daily increase of 234,692 COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Saturday.

It was the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days.

Total cases reached nearly 14.5 million, second only to the United States which has reported more than 32 million infections, Reuters reported.

India’s deaths from COVID-19 rose by 1,341 to reach a total of 175,649, the data showed.

COVID-19

293 new covid cases and 9 deaths reported in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: May 6, 2021)

On Thursday, the Ministry of Public Health reported 293 new cases of COVID-19 out of 2,185 samples tested in the last 24 hours.

The ministry also reported nine deaths and 211 recoveries from COVID-19 in the same period.

The new cases were reported in Nangarhar (96), Kabul (88), Herat (3), Kandahar (31), Balkh (7), Takhar (1), Baghlan (6), Kunduz (2), Paktia (6), Parwan (2), Maidan Wardak (3), Badakhshan (2), Kapisa (6), Logar (1) Ghazni (4), Kunar (3), Laghman (4), Zabul (4), Ghor (12), Khost (7) and Paktika (5) provinces.

Deaths were reported in Kabul (2), Khost (2), Kandahar (1), Takhar (1), Paktia (1), Logar (1) and Zabul (1) provinces.

The ministry reported that the cumulative total of known COVID-19 cases is 61,455, the total number of reported deaths is 2,673, and the total number of recoveries is 53,961.

So far, 414,983 samples have been tested in government centers and there are 4,821 known active COVID-19 cases in the country, data by the ministry indicates.

This comes after Pakistan recently banned inbound pedestrian movement from neighboring Afghanistan and Iran in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.

The ban will be effective from May 4 to May 20 and only Pakistani nationals and people with extreme emergency medical issues will be allowed to enter the Pakistan from both countries.

All outbound pedestrian movement will be allowed.

Border terminals between the three countries will also remain open throughout the week for trade and cargo purposes.

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As COVID-19 rages in India, scientist warns further waves ‘inevitable’

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

A top scientific adviser to the Indian government warned on Wednesday the country would inevitably face further waves of the coronavirus pandemic, as almost 4,000 people died in the space of a day.

With hospitals scrabbling for beds and oxygen in response to a deadly second surge in infections, the World Health Organization said in a weekly report that India accounted for nearly half the coronavirus cases reported worldwide last week and a quarter of the deaths.

Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen, while morgues and crematoriums struggle to deal with a seemingly unstoppable flow of bodies.

The government’s principal scientific adviser, K. VijayRaghavan, warned that even after infection rates subside the country should be ready for a third wave.

“Phase 3 is inevitable, given the high levels of circulating virus,” he told a news briefing. “But it is not clear on what timescale this phase 3 will occur… We should prepare for new waves.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave, after religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people in recent weeks and became “super spreader” events.

“We are running out of air. We are dying,” the Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy wrote in an opinion piece that called for Modi to step down.

“This is a crisis of your making,” she added in the article published on Tuesday. “You cannot solve it. You can only make it worse….So please go.”

India’s delegation to 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

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who is in London, said in a Twitter message that he would attend virtually.

GOVERNMENT RESISTING LOCKDOWN

Deaths rose by a record 3,780 during the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed, and daily infections rose by 382,315 on Wednesday. The number has been in excess of 300,000 every day for the past two weeks.

Medical experts say India’s actual figures could be five to 10 times the official tallies. The country has added 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach its first 10 million.

The opposition has urged a nationwide lockdown, but the government is reluctant to impose one for fear of the economic fallout, although several states have adopted social curbs.

In the latest move the eastern state of West Bengal, where voters dealt Modi’s party a defeat in an election last week, suspended local train services and limited working hours for banks and jewellery shops, among its steps to limit infections.

The central bank asked banks on Wednesday to allow more time for some borrowers to repay loans, as the crisis threatens a nascent economic revival.

FALL IN VACCINATIONS, TESTING

The surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations because of supply and delivery problems, despite India being a major vaccine producer.

At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.

Lengthy queues formed outside two centres in the western city that still have vaccine supplies, and some of those waiting pleaded for police to open their gates earlier.

The government said production capacity for the antiviral drug remdesivir, used to treat COVID-19 patients, has trebled to 10.3 million vials per month, up from 3.8 million vials a month ago.

But daily testing has fallen sharply to 1.5 million, state-run Indian Council of Medical Research said, off a peak of 1.95 million on Saturday.

OUTBREAK SPREADING

Two “oxygen express” trains carrying liquid oxygen arrived in the capital, New Delhi, on Wednesday, railways minister Piyush Goyal said on Twitter. More than 25 trains have distributed oxygen supplies nationwide.

The government says supplies are sufficient but transport woes have hindered distribution.

Meanwhile, the outbreak continues to spread.

In the remote state of Mizoram bordering Myanmar, beds in its biggest coronavirus hospital are in such short supply that all victims of other diseases have been asked to leave, said government official Dr Z R Thiamsanga.

Just three of a total 14 ventilators were still available.

“In my opinion, a complete lockdown is required to control the situation,” he told Reuters from the state capital, Aizawl.

Neighbouring Nepal is also being overwhelmed by a surge of infections as India’s outbreak spreads across South Asia, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

With 57 times as many cases as a month ago, Nepal is seeing 44% of tests come back positive, it added. Towns near the border with India are unable to cope with the growing numbers seeking treatment, while just 1% of its population was fully vaccinated.

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India suspends IPL as COVID cases cross 20 million

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(Last Updated On: May 4, 2021)

India suspended its most popular sports tournament on Tuesday and the country’s opposition chief called for a nationwide lockdown as the number of coronavirus infections climbed past 20 million, a dismal milestone crossed only by the United States.

Cricket officials suspended the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL), after the country added 10 million cases in just over four months, versus the more than 10 months taken for the first 10 million, Reuters reported.

“These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times,” the IPL said in a statement.

With 3.45 million active cases, India recorded 357,229 new infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose 3,449 for a toll of 222,408, health ministry data showed.

Experts say actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher, however.

“The only way to stop the spread of corona now is a full lockdown…GOI’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” Gandhi, a Congress member of parliament, said on Twitter, referring to the government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown for fear of the economic fallout, but several states have imposed social curbs, Reuters reported.

The impoverished eastern state of Bihar ordered a lockdown until May 15 to curb the virus, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Twitter. With more than 100,000 infections, its death toll is nearing 3,000, government figures show.

The cricket-obsessed nation’s halt to the IPL tournament was a result of the virus crisis, its chairman, Brijesh Patel, told Reuters. The tournament, with an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion, was being played without spectators to a huge television audience this year but has been severely criticized for continuing at a time when the country’s healthcare system is on the brink of a collapse.

The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant has swamped the health system and depleted supplies of life-saving oxygen, while sufferers have died in ambulances and car parks outside hospitals.

Rows of funeral pyres set up in parks and other open spaces are being used to cremate the overflow of corpses.

Modi has been criticized for not moving sooner to limit the latest wave of infections and for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies during March and April.

But a glimmer of hope surfaced in comments on Monday by a health ministry official who said infections in some regions were plateauing, Reuters reported.

Government modelling points to a peak by Wednesday, a few days earlier than a previous estimate, since the virus has spread faster than expected.

India’s surge has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations, hit by problems with supplies and delivery.

At least three states, including Maharashtra, the richest and home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, reported scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some vaccination centres.

On Monday the state had injected 79,491 doses, down from a record 534,372 a week ago.

In Modi’s adjoining home state of Gujarat, the three largest cities of Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara limited vaccines to those aged between 18 and 44, officials said.

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