India’s second wave of coronavirus infection shows no signs of slowing down.
The South Asian country reported more than 200,000 new cases and more than 1,000 deaths over a 24-hour period on Thursday, according to health ministry data. Most of the new infections are being reported in a handful of states, including the western state of Maharashtra, which is home to India’s financial capital Mumbai.
Government data also suggests that more states are showing an upward trajectory in reported cases, which have been rising since February. The death rate is also increasing as hospitals face pressure over supplies, including the number of beds available. For example, a doctor’s association in the state of Gujarat has reportedly asked the government to ensure 100% oxygen supply for hospitals treating Covid-19 patients.
India still has a relatively high recovery rate.
Since the beginning of April, India has reported more than 1.9 million new cases and over 10,600 deaths, per CNBC’s calculations of health ministry data. Between April 1 and April 7, India reported more than 652,000 cases. That number has nearly doubled in the eight days since.
Earlier this week, India overtook Brazil to become the second worst-infected country behind the United States, just months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly declared victory over Covid-19.
On Wednesday evening, India’s richest state went into a lockdown set to last until May 1 to break the chain of transmission. Maharashtra is considered the epicenter of India’s second wave of infections.
Guidelines issued by Maharashtra’s chief minister said only essential services — including public transport and grocery — would be operational between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. local time and people would not be allowed in public spaces without valid reasons.
The central government has reportedly blamed the second wave on people’s lack of commitment toward wearing masks and practicing safe distancing.
In recent weeks, politicians held election rallies in states like West Bengal where large crowds gathered — most of them without wearing masks. There were also a string of religious gatherings that took place in various parts of the country where thousands gathered in close proximity.
There is also growing concern about the double mutation of a Covid-19 variant that was discovered in India, which could make the virus more contagious and better at evading the body’s defenses.
India’s vaccination drive
India’s health ministry data as of Wednesday showed more than 110 million doses of vaccines have been administered since the government began an ambitious inoculation program in January.
Some states, including Maharashtra, are reportedly facing severe vaccine shortages that is halting their inoculation drives. The Indian government, in response, has accused those states of diverting attention away from their failure to control the virus — it maintains that the issue is over planning instead of a supply shortage.
But the Serum Institute of India, which is manufacturing AstraZeneca’s shot, known locally as Covishield, has said its production capacity is “very stressed.”
This week India approved a third vaccine for emergency use — Russia-developed Sputnik V.