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COVID-19

Indian doctors describe COVID situation as chaotic

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(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

India reported a record 200,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday as the financial hub of Mumbai entered a lockdown and many hospitals treating coronavirus patients reported severe shortages of beds and oxygen supplies.

The surge was the seventh record daily increase in the last eight days and comes as India battles a massive second wave of infections that has its epicentre in the economically significant state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, Reuters reported. The western state accounts for about a quarter of the country’s total cases.

India reported 200,739 COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data released Thursday. Deaths stood at 1,038, taking the total to 173,123.

The total caseload reached 14.1 million, only second to the United States, which leads the global tally with 31.4 million cases.

According to Reuters, hospitals and doctors in Maharashtra as well other regions including Gujarat and Delhi in the north reported chaotic scenes as healthcare facilities were overwhelmed with a surge in admissions of COVID-19 patients.

“The situation is horrible. We are a 900-bed hospital, but there are about 60 patients waiting and we don’t have space for them,” said Avinash Gawande, an official at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Nagpur, a commercial hub in Maharashtra.

Hospitals in other places including Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, reported oxygen shortages. “If such conditions persist, the death toll will rise,” the head of a medical body in Ahmedabad wrote in a letter to the Gujarat state chief minister.

India’s government said the country was producing oxygen at its full capacity everyday for the last two days and it had boosted output.

“Along with the ramped up production of the oxygen manufacturing units and the surplus stocks available, the present availability of oxygen is sufficient,” the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims still thronged to a religious festival in the north of the country on Wednesday, stoking fears of a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the region, Reuters reported.

In capital Delhi, daily COVID-19 cases are hitting new records, with doctors warning the surge could be deadlier than in 2020.

“This virus is more infectious and virulent …. We have 35-year olds with pneumonia in intensive care, which was not happening last year,” said Dhiren Gupta, a pediatrician at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. “The situation is chaotic.”

COVID-19

India’s daily COVID-19 deaths near 4,000 as WHO flags concern

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2021)

India reported a smaller rise in daily coronavirus infections on Saturday, but deaths stayed near the 4,000 mark, with the World Health Organisation warning that the second year of the pandemic could be worse than the first.

Reuters reported that over the past 24 hours, India had 326,098 new coronavirus infections for its lowest rise in nearly three weeks, taking the tally to 24.37 million, along with 3,890 deaths.

But the slow growth may reflect lower test rates, which are at their lowest since May 9.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization’s chief said the second year of the pandemic was set to be more deadly than the first, with India a huge concern, Reuters reported.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s remarks to an online meeting on Friday came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded the alarm over the rapid spread of the disease through the vast countryside.

During the past week, the south Asian nation has added about 1.7 million new cases and more than 20,000 deaths. Its death toll stands at 266,207, health ministry data shows.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his country would accelerate its vaccination programme, to try to contain a fast-spreading Indian variant that could knock off-track the re-opening of Britain’s economy, Reuters reported.

Johnson’s comments came soon after India accepted a government panel’s recommendation for a longer gap of 12 to 16 weeks between the first and second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, from six to eight weeks now.

Cases have fallen steadily in states hit by an initial surge in infections, such as the richest state of Maharashtra and the northern state of Delhi, after they imposed stringent lockdowns.

But the eastern state of West Bengal, which held elections recently, experienced its biggest single-day spike, suggesting a fall in the overall caseload may take a while.

Infections in Modi’s western home state of Gujarat fell below 10,000 after four straight weeks but officials warned against any relaxation in curbs until they return to levels seen before the breakout of India’s second wave in mid-February, Reuters reported.

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COVID-19

WHO urges rich countries to donate shots instead of vaccinating children

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(Last Updated On: May 14, 2021)

The World Health Organization urged rich countries on Friday to reconsider plans to vaccinate children and instead donate COVID-19 shots to the COVAX scheme that shares them with poorer nations.

The WHO is hoping more countries will follow France and Sweden in donating shots to COVAX after inoculating their priority populations to help address a gulf in vaccination rates.

Canada and the United States are among countries that have authorised vaccines for use in adolescents in recent weeks. However, a WHO official said talks with Washington on sharing doses were under way.

“I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to #COVAX,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual meeting in Geneva.

COVAX, which has delivered around 60 million doses so far, has struggled to meet supply targets partly because of Indian export restrictions on the AstraZeneca vaccine due to its growing epidemic.

So far, around 1.26 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered globally.

Tedros also said the second year of the pandemic was set to be more deadly than the first, with India a huge concern.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded the alarm over the rapid spread of the coronavirus through India’s vast countryside on Friday, as the country’s official tally of infections crossed 24 million and over 4,000 people died for the third straight day.

More than 160.71 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and nearly 3.5 million have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

WHO officials urged caution in lifting measures that contain transmission, such as mask wearing, and warned that more variants were bound to be detected.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks outdoors and could avoid wearing them indoors in most places.

“Very few countries are at the point where they can drop these measures,” said Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan.

 
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COVID-19

More than 4,000 Indians die of COVID-19 for second straight day

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(Last Updated On: May 13, 2021)

India recorded more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths for a second straight day on Thursday, while infections stayed below 400,000 for a fourth day, though the virus has become rampant in rural areas where cases can go unreported due to a lack of testing, Reuters reported.

Experts remain unsure when numbers will peak and concern is growing about the transmissibility of the variant that is driving infections in India and spreading worldwide.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said most models had predicted a peak this week and that the country could be seeing signs of that trend, Reuters reported.

Still, the number of new cases each day is large enough to overwhelm hospitals, she said on Twitter. “The key word is cautious optimism.”

The situation is particularly bad in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with a population of over 230 million. Television pictures have shown families weeping over the dead in rural hospitals or camping in wards to tend the sick.

Bodies have washed up in the Ganges, the river that flows through the state, as crematoriums are overwhelmed and wood for funeral pyres is in short supply.

“Official statistics give you no idea of the devastating pandemic that is raging through rural UP,” wrote well-known activist and opposition politician Yogendra Yadav in The Print.

“Widespread ignorance, lack of nearby or adequate testing facilities, official and unofficial cap on testing and inordinate delays in test reports have meant that in village after village, virtually no one has been tested, while scores of people complain of a ‘strange fever’”.

According to health ministry data, India had 362,727 new COVID-19 infections over the last 24 hours while deaths climbed by 4,120.

The surge in infections has been accompanied by a slowdown in vaccinations, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that vaccinations would be open to all adults from May 1, Reuters reported.

Two states – Karnataka, which includes tech hub Bengaluru, and Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai – have announced they will temporarily suspend vaccination for people aged 18-44 years as they prioritize those over 45 who need their second dose.

India is the world’s largest vaccine producer, but has run low on stocks in the face of the huge demand. As of Thursday, it had fully vaccinated just over 38.2 million people, or about 2.8% of a population of about 1.35 billion, government data shows.

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