Biden hails US vaccine drive as India breaks virus toll record

New Delhi, India: As Biden praises the US vaccine push, India sees a record increase in virus infections.

On Thursday, India set a new global record for the number of coronavirus cases in a single day, as US President Joe Biden praised his government's "stunning" vaccination campaign.

Despite vaccine rollouts in many nations, Covid-19 outbreaks are placing enormous pressure on authorities from Germany to Uruguay, with no end in sight for a pandemic that has taken over three million lives worldwide.

The underfunded healthcare system in India, home to 1.3 billion people, was being pushed to its breaking point by a vicious new wave of diseases, with dire warnings of oxygen, medication, and hospital bed shortages.

"I'm feeling really helpless," said Jasvinder Pal Singh, a pharmacy owner in the capital New Delhi.

"People are crying, they ask me for medication, and I'm saying 'no, no and no'."

On Thursday, India's health ministry recorded 314,835 new infections in the previous 24 hours, the most of any country since the pandemic started, as hospitals issued urgent alerts that patients might die without fresh oxygen supplies.

The latest outbreak has been attributed to a new variant and super-spreader activities such as the Kumbh Mela, one of the world's largest religious gatherings, as well as major political rallies.

The severe shortages have also resulted in a boom period for profiteers, with drugs and oxygen being sold at rates that are several times their normal prices.

"My friend is desperate... we have been trying all the government helplines but none of them are responding (and) most of the oxygen suppliers have switched off their phones," said Zain Zaidi, sales manager at a hotel in the northern city of Lucknow.

"I just managed to find one supplier but he is charging 20,000 rupees ($265). I have to buy it at any cost."

'Amazing' development in the United States 

There was positive news from the United States, where President Joe Biden praised his administration for completing the administration of 200 million vaccine doses ahead of time.

"Today we did it, today we hit 200 million shots," he said in a speech on Wednesday, describing it as "an incredible achievement for the nation".

"The progress we've made has been stunning."

Biden claimed that the United States, which has the highest Covid-19 death toll and the largest documented caseload in the world, was still on track to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday in relative normalcy.

However, he cautioned that rising infection rates in some parts of the world indicated that it was too soon to claim victory.

"If we let up now and stop being vigilant, this virus will erase the progress," he said.

Following the success of the vaccination campaign, New York City launched its largest-ever tourism promotion campaign, aiming to entice tourists and revive the city's battered economy.

However, there was a concerning story from Mexico, where 80 people were allegedly given fake doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Pfizer reported on Wednesday that suspect doses confiscated in Mexico and Poland were bogus, with US media claiming that people were being paid up to $1,000 per shot.

According to the firm, the liquid in the seized vials in Poland was a cosmetic drug, possibly an anti-wrinkle cream.

'Until the dead are dead'

Despite the strong danger of virus revival, people around the world are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Covid-19 restrictions.

Thousands of anti-lockdown demonstrators clashed with police in Berlin on Wednesday, while the German parliament passed an amendment giving the government the authority to implement stricter anti-coronavirus measures.

With Germany in the grip of a third outbreak of the pandemic, a new law calling for national curbs, such as school closures and night curfews, drew protesters to the streets. Some protesters held posters accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of treason.

However, the exhaustion caused by restrictions is nothing compared to the cost of an uncontrolled epidemic, as intensive care workers in Uruguay, which has gone from a shining example of pandemic management to a nation in crisis, have warned.

"Unfortunately, people do not seem to comprehend," said Carla Romero, a nursing assistant at an intensive care unit in the capital Montevideo.

"That's how it is. Until the dead are your dead... until it happens in your family, it is hard for people to comprehend."

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