India announces $6.7b in finances to boost pandemic battle

Mumbai, India: To combat the devastating coronavirus outbreak gripping the nation, India released $6.7 billion in low-cost financing for vaccine manufacturers, hospitals, and other health-related businesses on Wednesday.

Shaktikanta Das, the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, has also agreed to use "unconventional" measures if the crisis worsens.

He was speaking as India recorded a new high of 3,780 deaths in 24 hours and 382,000 new cases.

It became the second country after the US to reach 20 million cases this week, and hospitals across the 1.3 billion-strong country have complained of chronic shortages of beds, oxygen, vaccines, and key medicines.

"The devastating speed with which the virus affects different regions of the country has to be matched by swift and wide-ranging actions," Das said.

According to him, the latest policies seek to expand access to emergency health services by making it easier for banks to provide low-interest loans to hospitals, oxygen suppliers, and even patients.

According to Das, the central bank would also allow some general business borrowers more time to repay loans in order to support the economy.

"The immediate objective is to preserve human life and restore livelihoods through all means possible," he added.

Patients have died in hospital parking lots due to a shortage of beds and oxygen in India's underfunded health care system, which has failed to cope with the new Covid-19 onslaught.

Experts have cautioned that case numbers will continue to rise until the end of May, with 500,000 new infections per day possible.

Though curfews and other restrictions have been enforced in New Delhi and other major cities, the government has defied demands for a nationwide lockdown.

The government has also been urged by the Supreme Court to take stricter measures.

The Indian Premier League, the world's richest cricket competition, was forced to halt play this week due to the virus's spread among players. Many international celebrities are now having difficulty obtaining flights out of the country.

Amit Mishra of the Delhi Capitals and Wriddhiman Saha of the Sunrisers Hyderabad were both recently contaminated.

After a months-long lockdown that caused the labor market to crash and the economy to contract by nearly a quarter between April and June last year, the nation has attempted to reclaim lost ground.

Even before the pandemic, Asia's third-largest economy had been in the throes of a protracted recession, and the virus's effect on global activity, coupled with one of the world's strictest lockdowns, dealt the nation a serious blow.

Fearing a replay of last year's economic catastrophe, officials have enforced only minimal restrictions thus far, attempting to strike a balance between maintaining the economy and focusing outbreaks on the hardest-hit areas.

New Delhi is hoping that a major vaccination drive that began in January and has so far resulted in the administration of 160 million shots would help the economy.

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