India’s capital New Delhi will impose a week-long lockdown from Monday night, officials said, as the megacity struggles to contain a huge surge in Covid cases with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen supplies low.
The nation of 1.3 billion people reported a record-high of 2,73,810 infections on Monday — the fifth-consecutive day of more than 200,000 cases — to take the total to 15.06 million.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 30,20,765 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1000 GMT on Monday.
At least 14,12,91,720 cases of coronavirus have been registered.
On Sunday, 8,980 new deaths and 6,87,697 new cases were recorded worldwide.
Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were Brazil with 1,657 new deaths, followed by India with 1,619 and Peru with 433.
The United States is the worst-affected country with 5,67,217 deaths from 3,16,70,353 cases.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 3,73,335 deaths from 1,39,43,071 cases, Mexico with 2,12,339 deaths from 23,05,602 cases, India with 1,78,769 deaths from 1,50,61,919 cases, and the United Kingdom with 1,27,270 deaths from 43,87,820 cases.
Europe overall has 10,25,222 deaths from 4,80,58,397 cases, Latin America and the Caribbean 8,64,999 deaths from 2,72,25,838 infections, and the United States and Canada 5,90,833 deaths from 3,27,89,620 cases.
Asia has reported 2,98,242 deaths from 2,14,56,957 cases, the Middle East 1,22,581 deaths from 72,90,046 cases, Africa 1,17,861 deaths from 44,29,269 cases, and Oceania 1,027 deaths from 41,602 cases.
India opened its Covid-19 vaccination drive to all adults from May 1, as the vast nation battles a massive spike in infections that has forced the capital into a week-long lockdown.
India, which currently limits shots to over-45s, kicked off its inoculation drive in mid-January and has administered more than 123 million shots so far.
In Delhi — the worst-hit city in India — 25,500 fresh cases were reported on Sunday, with almost one-third of those tested returning positive coronavirus results.
‘Delhi’s health system is at a tipping point. The Covid-19 situation is pretty critical,’ Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a televised address.
‘If we don’t impose a lockdown now, we will be looking at a bigger disaster. From tonight there will be a lockdown until next Monday.’
He said businesses would be shut and movement around the northern city of 20 million limited to essential services, from 10:00pm on Monday to 5:00am the following Monday.
‘The lockdown doesn’t end the pandemic but just slows it. We will use this week-long lockdown to improve our healthcare,’ he said, adding that the healthcare system was ‘under severe strain’ and had ‘reached its limit’.
In the last seven days, India has recorded more than 1.4 million cases — an increase of 64 per cent on the previous week, according to data compiled by AFP.
Experts blame complacency about the virus, with the spike coming after daily cases fell below 9,000 in February.
There is also growing concern that virus variants, including a ‘double mutant’, are fuelling infections.
‘It looks like the second wave is due to fast-spreading variants... It’s spreading much faster than the first wave,’ virologist T Jacob John said.
Following the announcement, long queues formed outside Delhi’s food and alcohol stores in several neighbourhoods, in scenes reminiscent of the rush ahead of last year’s nationwide lockdown.
Kejriwal tried to address fears that the lockdown would be extended, appealing to migrant workers not to leave Delhi.
Last year’s harsh restrictions put millions of poor daily-wagers out of work, with many fleeing cities for their villages — often on foot with some dying along the way.
‘I hope it is not a long lockdown. It gets really tough for people like us,’ said flower vendor Surinder Singh.
‘We are very scared, everyone is scared,’ added Sunil Kumar, 25. ‘One week is good, at least there’s no economic downside.’
By Monday evening, thousands of workers crowded Anand Vihar Terminal in east Delhi, waiting to take buses to their home states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.
Delhi’s restrictions followed measures in other states, including Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai, and Tamil Nadu.
The northern state of Punjab on Monday announced further restrictions, including an extended night curfew.
The national government has said it will address states’ appeals for more medical supplies.
On social media, families begged for beds, oxygen and drugs. Local media reported long queues at crematoriums.
In Modi’s home state Gujarat, crematoriums said bodies were being brought in in numbers far higher than local Covid-19 death tolls.
Meanwhile, the world’s hardest-hit country the US passes a hopeful milestone as half its adults have had at least one vaccine dose — that is roughly 130 million Americans aged 18 and over.
Canada will funnel additional health staff and equipment into Ontario as the province battles a worrying spike in infections, says prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Greece says travellers from the EU, Britain, the US, Israel, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates who are fully vaccinated or have had a recent negative test will not be subjected to a week-long quarantine when entering the country.
A Greek cargo ship sailing from Egypt is quarantined in Crete after a sailor is found dead and 10 others test positive.
Vanuatu slaps travel restrictions on its most populous island after tests confirm a body that washed ashore on the largely virus-free Pacific nation was infected with Covid-19.
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