India’s coronavirus deaths crossed a quarter million on Wednesday in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began, as the disease rampaged through the countryside, overloading a fragile rural healthcare system.
Boosted by highly infectious variants, the second wave erupted in February to inundate hospitals and medical staff, as well as crematoriums and mortuaries. Experts are still unable to say with certainty when the figures will peak.
Deaths swelled by a record 4,205 while infections rose 348,421 in the 24 hours to Wednesday, carrying the tally past 23 million, health ministry data showed. Experts believe the actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher, however.
Funeral pyres have blazed in city parking lots, and scores of bodies have washed up on the banks of the holy river Ganges, having been immersed by relatives whose villages were stripped bare of the wood needed for cremations.
Lacking beds, drugs and medical oxygen, hospitals have been forced to turn away droves of sufferers, while tales of desperate relatives searching for someone to treat dying loved ones have become sickeningly commonplace.
Many victims die without a doctor on hand to issue a death certificate, and even when a doctor is available, COVID-19 is not specified as the cause of death unless the deceased was tested for the disease, which few have been.
Although the infection curve may be showing early signs of flattening, new cases are likely to fall off slowly, said top virologist Shahid Jameel.
“We seem to be plateauing around 400,000 cases a day,” the Indian Express newspaper quoted him as saying.
“It is still too early to say whether we have reached the peak.”
India, with a population of 1.4 billion, accounts for half of cases and 30% of deaths worldwide, the World Health Organization said in its latest weekly report.
The full impact of the B.1.617 variant found in India, which the agency has designated as being of global concern, is not yet clear, it added.
Daily infections are shooting up in the countryside in comparison to big towns, where they have slowed after last month’s surge, experts say.
More than half the cases this week in the western state of Maharashtra were in rural areas, up from a third a month ago. That share is nearly two-thirds in the most populous, and mainly rural, state of Uttar Pradesh, government data showed.
Television showed images of people weeping over the bodies of loved ones in ramshackle rural hospitals while others camped in wards tending to the sick.
A pregnant woman was taking care of her husband who had breathing difficulties in a hospital in Bhagalpur in the eastern state of Bihar that is seeing a surge its health system could barely have handled at the best of times.
“There is no doctor here, she sleeps the whole night here, taking care of her husband,” her brother told India Today television.
In a corridor outside, two sons were wailing over the body of their father, saying repeatedly that he could have been saved if only he had been given a bed in an intensive care unit.
At the general hospital in Bijnor, a town in northern Uttar Pradesh, a woman lay in a cot next to a garbage can and medical waste.
“How can someone get treated if the situation is like this?” asked her son, Sudesh Tyagi. “It is a hell out here.”
China says 76% of population fully vaccinated against COVID-19
China has given complete doses of COVID-19 vaccines to about 75.6% of its population as of Oct. 23, National Health Commission spokesperson Mi Feng said on Sunday.
Some 1.068 billion people have now been inoculated with the required dosages, out of a population of 1.412 billion, Mi told a news briefing.
The country administered 2.245 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Saturday, official data showed.
China is giving booster shots to adults whose last dose was at least six months earlier, with priority groups including essential workers, older people and those with weaker immune systems, Reuters reported.
Data showed antibodies elicited by vaccines, including the most-used shots from Sinovac and Sinopharm, declined within months.
Wang Huaqing, chief expert for the immunization program at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said China would not keep giving people booster shots after booster shots.
“We hope that an ideal vaccine works well with the full doses of immunization,” Wang told the briefing.
“Even if it needs to be strengthened later, the number of boosters is limited,” Wang said. “We hope in the future there will be better vaccines and better vaccination procedures to achieve solid protection among the public.”
China has largely contained the virus in most areas, and the sporadic local outbreaks are tiny compared with those seen in other countries.
However, Mi cautioned on Sunday there is increasing risk that China’s latest outbreak, involving over 100 infections in a week across 11 provincial areas, will spread further.
Up to 180,000 health workers may have died from COVID-19
Between 80,000 and 180,000 health and care workers may have died from COVID-19 between January of 2020 and May of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
This estimate features in a new WHO working paper based on the 3.45 million coronavirus-related deaths reported globally to the UN health agency up to May; a figure that WHO said may well be at least 60 percent lower than the actual number of victims.
To highlight the need for better protection, WHO was joined by global partners working to end the pandemic, to issue an urgent call for concrete action on behalf of workers in the sector.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterated that “the backbone of every health system is its workforce.”
“COVID-19 is a powerful demonstration of just how much we rely on these men and women, and how vulnerable we all are when the people who protect our health are themselves unprotected”, he added.
WHO and partners said that apart from huge concern over deaths, an increasing proportion of the workforce continue to suffer from burnout, stress, anxiety and fatigue.
They are calling on leaders and policy makers to ensure equitable access to vaccines so that health and care workers are prioritized.
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.
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