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India’s COVID-19 deaths cross quarter million as virus ravages countryside

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(Last Updated On: May 12, 2021)

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.

RURAL SPREAD

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.”

COVID-19

Universities to reopen once students and staff have been vaccinated

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(Last Updated On: July 24, 2021)

The Afghan government announced Saturday that the ministries of public health, higher education and education have agreed that class-based lectures for university and college students will gradually resume over the next two weeks.

The Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) said that the first step will see all students and teaching staff get COVID-19 vaccines before classes resume.

“Class-based lessons will restart gradually at all institutions registered with the MoHE,” said Hamid Obaidi, spokesman for the MoHE adding that classes will first resume in provinces that have a low coronavirus infection rate.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said that school examinations will start during this solar month.

According to the ministry, a decision has yet to be made on resuming classroom lessons for school students.

“The examination process will take time because we want to hold exams in many shifts to avoid large gatherings,” said Najiba Arian, a spokeswoman for the MoE.

The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said that the impact of people having travelled around the country over Eid al-Adha will also determine the COVID-19 situation within the next week.

This comes after the MoPH reported 32 deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours across Afghanistan.

The MoPH said 203 new infections were registered in the mentioned time.

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Olympics-Athlete COVID-19 infections rise in Tokyo

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(Last Updated On: July 18, 2021)

Tokyo Olympics organisers on Sunday reported three new cases of COVID-19 infection among athletes, up from one new case a day earlier, as the population of the athlete’s village swells ahead of the start of the pandemic-hit Games next week.

Organisers reported 10 new cases connected to the Olympics including media, contractors and other personnel, down from 15 on Saturday.

An International Olympic Committee member from South Korea tested positive for the coronavirus on landing in Tokyo. Ryu Seung-min, a former Olympic athlete, is vaccinated, reflecting the infection risk even from vaccinated attendees.

Infection rates are climbing among the general population of the capital, topping 1,000 new cases for four consecutive days. Polls show many Japanese oppose holding the Games with the influx of overseas visitors it entails.

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First COVID case found at athletes’ village, stoking fears ahead of Olympics

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(Last Updated On: July 17, 2021)

Tokyo Olympics organisers said on Saturday a person has tested positive for COVID-19 at the athletes’ village, the first case at a site where most competitors will be staying, raising new doubts over promises of a “safe and secure” Games.

The organisers confirmed that a visitor from abroad who is involved in organising the Games had tested positive during a routine test on Friday, Reuters reported.

The person’s nationality was not revealed due to privacy concerns.

The Summer Olympics are taking place from 23 July to 8 August 2021.

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