Prime minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat became the latest to tighten coronavirus curbs on Wednesday as India’s infections surged to a record of almost 1,16,000 new cases in 24 hours.
Experts blame the country’s fresh wave on people ignoring guidelines and attending huge religious and political events, as well as weddings and cricket matches in recent months.
India has now recorded 12.8 million cases, the third-highest behind the United States and Brazil, although those nations have much smaller populations. More than 1,66,000 Indians have died.
The coronavirus has killed at least 28,74,984 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1000 GMT on Wednesday.
At least 13,23,82,700 cases of coronavirus have been registered. The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.
On Tuesday, 12,384 new deaths and 6,44,889 new cases were recorded worldwide.
Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were Brazil with 4,195, followed by the United States with 1,105 and Poland with 638.
The United States is the worst-affected country with 5,56,528 deaths from 3,08,47,167 cases.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 3,36,947 deaths from 1,31,00,580 cases, Mexico with 2,05,002 deaths from 22,56,380 cases and the United Kingdom with 1,26,882 deaths from 43,64,529 cases.
Europe overall has 9,78,685 deaths from 4,51,99,611 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 8,05,865 deaths from 2,55,09,650 infections, and the United States and Canada 5,79,637 deaths from 3,18,61,808 cases.
Asia has reported 2,78,872 deaths from 1,87,24,429 cases, the Middle East 1,16,599 deaths from 67,55,503 cases, Africa 1,14,322 deaths from 42,92,665 cases, and Oceania 1,004 deaths from 39,038 cases.
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state and home to megacity Mumbai, has imposed a night curfew and weekend lockdowns are due to begin on Friday evening.
New Delhi imposed night curfews from Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Gujarat in western India extended after-dark restrictions to 20 cities and banned large social and political gatherings.
‘We have also extended the timing of night curfew from 8 pm to 6 am... This will be in force until April 30,’ Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said in a video message.
The northern state of Punjab on Wednesday ordered a ban on political gatherings and extended a night curfew to the whole state while capping numbers at indoor funerals and weddings to 50 guests and 100 for outdoors.
Chief minister Amarinder Singh said it was also a ‘matter of concern that over 85 per cent of cases in Punjab are of the UK strain, which is more contagious and virulent.’
Press reports say that hospitals are starting to suffer, particularly in Maharashtra. One Pune clinic is reportedly giving oxygen support to patients in a makeshift waiting area.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences, one of Delhi’s biggest government hospitals, will from Thursday end walk-in consultations to minimise infections, reports said.
The government has so far shied away from reimposing a nationwide lockdown after a shutdown in March 2020 — one of the world’s toughest — caused widespread human and economic misery.
Many Indians lowered their guard after infections slowed sharply in late 2020, with huge crowds thronging religious festivals such as the Kumbh Mela which on one day last month saw three million attendees.
Spectators were also allowed at cricket matches between India and England in Gujarat, while political rallies for state elections have drawn huge crowds, including an estimated 8,00,000 at one event hosted by Modi.
India has so far administered almost 90 million vaccine shots but experts say that the government’s target of inoculating 300 million people by August risks being missed with many scared to get the injections or complacent about the virus.
India’s curb on exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine as cases soar at home is hampering the world’s largest jab manufacturer, the company claims.
The CEO of the Serum Institute of India said its production capacity is ‘very stressed’ and it needs up to $408 million that it would have earned from exports to ramp up output.
The European Medicines Agency said Wednesday that blood clots should be listed as a ‘very rare’ side effect of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine but that the jab’s benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
‘EMA’s safety committee has concluded today that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects’ of the shot, the Amsterdam-based EU drug regulator said in a statement.
German chancellor Angela Merkel calls for a short national lockdown to stem rising case numbers putting her on a collision course with some states who control health policy.
A 28-year-old man who broke a curfew in the Philipines to get water died after being made to do 100 squat-like exercises as punishment.
His wife said that he died of convulsions the next morning. More than 10,000 people have been punished for breaking the curfew in and around Manila in the last week.
Australia’s prime minister blames EU vaccine export controls for halting its inoculation drive, as he faces growing public frustration over the sluggish rollout.
Taiwan accuses China of trying to tempt Paraguay to drop its recognition of the island nation in exchange for vaccines.
Paraguay is one of only 15 countries that officially recognise Taipei over Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
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