COVID-19: India surpasses grim 200,000 virus death toll

New Delhi, India: Official statistics showed that India's coronavirus death toll surpassed 200,000 on Wednesday, with more than 3,000 deaths recorded in 24 hours for the first time.

According to health ministry statistics, a total of 201,187 people have died, with 3,293 of them dying in the last day, though many experts believe the true toll is higher.

India has now recorded 18 million infections, a 360,000 rise in 24 hours that sets a new world record. In only one month, the nation has added nearly six million new cases.

The surge in cases, which has been attributed in part to a new virus variant as well as mass political and religious events, has overwhelmed hospitals, causing severe shortages of beds, medications, and oxygen.

People are dying outside overcrowded hospitals in New Delhi, where three people are often forced to share beds. Clinics have been suffering from a lack of oxygen.

India has administered 150 million vaccine shots so far, and the program will be extended to include all adults beginning Saturday, meaning 600 million more people will be qualified.

Many states, however, are reporting that they do not have enough vaccine stocks, and experts are urging the government to prioritize disadvantaged populations and hard-hit regions.

A worrying surge

Infection and death rates are skyrocketing in the vast country of 1.3 billion people, despite the United States and some European countries taking incremental measures toward normalcy.

The virus has now killed over 3.1 million people worldwide, with India leading the current surge, with 360,000 new infections – a global record – and over 3,000 deaths reported on Wednesday.

Carparks in New Delhi's capital have been converted into crematoriums, and the city's growing body count has caused a shortage of wood for funeral pyres.

Desperate families of the ill are also crowding outside hospitals and pharmacies, mostly in vain, in search of medication or medications, as the nation's health system is overburdened.

Patients and family members desperate for oxygen flocked to a tent outside a Sikh place of worship on the outskirts of the capital this week, arriving in cars, rickshaws, and ambulances.

"Medicines are also not available... I've visited five, six big medical stores," she told AFP.

"No matter how much time it takes, I have to wait here... I only have my mum."

Despite the increasing number of incidents, approximately 25,000 people attended the final auspicious bathing day of the Kumbh Mela religious festival in the northern town of Haridwar on Tuesday.

Millions of pilgrims, many without masks, have attended the Ganges festival, prompting criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist government for allowing it to take place.

Also read | Makeshift crematoriums, mass funerals, and a dead body every minute define Covid-hit Delhi

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that a version of Covid-19, which is suspected of leading to the devastating wave in India, has now been discovered in more than a dozen countries.

Many countries rushed to India's aid, sending urgently needed oxygen and other supplies.

Singapore announced Wednesday that it had sent two planeloads of oxygen supplies as part of the global relief effort.

India appears to be a front-runner for some of the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses that the US has said it would export.

Despite the worsening of the crisis in India and other parts of Asia, the Asian Development Bank lifted its growth forecast for the region's developing countries on Wednesday.

The lender expects China and India to lead the recovery across the vast continent but cautioned that vaccine rollouts were lagging.

According to the study, by the end of March, developing Asia had administered 5.2 doses per 100 people, behind the global average of around eight doses per 100.

Why should you be worried?

Many of our readers may feel safe a million miles away from the Covid surge in India.

But the fact is that what happens in this 1.3 billion-people country has an effect on the rest of the world.

For starters, India is the world's vaccine superpower, and any decline in demand would have an effect on global vaccination efforts as well.

Then there's the possibility that out-of-control infections will cause the virus to mutate further, possibly resulting in vaccine-resistant strains.

For these and other factors, it is important that the disease be brought under control.

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