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India reports over 400,000 daily cases for the third time in a week as second wave hammers country


A family member of Covid-19 infected patient seen carrying an empty oxygen cylinder outside a shop to get it refilled, amidst the rising number of the coronavirus cases.

Manish Rajput | SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images

India’s daily new Covid-19 cases crossed 400,000 for the third time this month as the country struggles to contain a devastating second wave.

Health ministry data released Friday showed there were 414,188 new cases over a 24-hour period, where at least 3,915 people succumbed to the disease. But reports of overwhelmed crematoriums and cemeteries as well as a growing number of obituaries in local papers suggest the official figures undercount the true death toll.

Total reported cases in the South Asian country currently stands at 21.49 million while fatalities exceed 234,000. In just the last seven days, India has reported more than 2.7 million cases and over 25,700 deaths, or an average of at least 153 people dying every hour.

While the Indian government has so far resisted calls for another national lockdown, states have stepped up restrictions including localized lockdowns and curfews. But health-care experts are worried that the pandemic is now spreading into small towns and villages, where the health infrastructure is not advanced enough to support a surge in cases.

The second wave began in February but cases rose at an alarming rate starting in April. The World Health Organization has said that the sharp rise in infections may be partly due to multiple mutated versions of the virus circulating in the country, including the local B.1.617 variant and the B.1.1.7 variant that was detected in the U.K.

But, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has drawn criticism for allowing large crowds to gather for religious festivals and election rallies throughout the country earlier this year and then leaving the bulk of responsibility for fighting the outbreak to state governments. India’s hospitals are overwhelmed and facing shortages of beds, medical oxygen and medication to treat Covid-19 patients.

India’s Supreme Court reportedly told the central government to start preparing for an anticipated third wave of outbreak and revamp its formula to distribute oxygen across the country. That comes a day after the top court gave the government 24 hours to formulate a plan to meet Delhi’s oxygen requirement.

The court intervened after 12 Covid-19 patients, including a doctor, died last week at a New Delhi hospital when it ran out of medical oxygen for 80 minutes, according to the Associated Press.

K. VijayRaghavan, the principal scientific advisor to the Indian government, urged people on Twitter to maintain social distancing and other Covid-appropriate behavior to stop the virus from spreading exponentially. But many of the cities that are experiencing a surge in cases are also very densely populated.

Earlier this week, he said at a press briefing that a third wave is “inevitable, given the higher levels of circulating virus. But it is not clear on what time scale this phase three will occur. Hopefully, incrementally, but we should prepare for new waves.”

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