Topline

India recorded more than 200,000 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the country’s highest single-day increase ever, and hospitals in major population centers have begun reporting a shortage of beds and oxygen supplies as the country’s second wave of infections shows no signs of slowing down.

Key Facts

India’s health ministry reported 200,739 new cases on Thursday along with 1,038 new deaths from Covid-19.

India’s richest state Maharashtra—which accounts for about a quarter of all cases in India— entered a fortnight-long partial lockdown on Thursday which bans all non-essential public activities across the state.

In Gujarat—Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state—local media has accused the state’s government of severely underreporting the number of deaths as large discrepancies appear in the official count and the figures from crematoriums and burial grounds.

The state of Delhi—home to the national capital—has imposed a weekend curfew which will force gyms, malls, spas and auditoriums to remain closed while restaurants will only be allowed to offer takeaway service.

In north India, Hindu pilgrims are attending the once-in-12-years Haridwar Kumbh Mela festival where some 3 million devotees have come out every day to take a ceremonial dip in the Ganges river with almost no social distancing, fueling fears of a massive uncontrolled outbreak.

Big Number

14 million. That’s the total number of Covid-19 cases India has recorded since the start of the pandemic. Earlier this week the country overtook Brazil as the second-worst hit in terms of total infections behind the United States.

Key Background

India’s massive second wave of infections comes after a sharp decline in Covid-19 cases over the new year period, which bottomed out around mid-February and left several experts puzzled. Daily case numbers in India had dropped so low that the Prime Minister declared victory over Covid-19 in January, comparing it to the national cricket team’s win in Australia. Despite warning that the drop in cases was likely a temporary lull, social distancing measures were largely abandoned in various parts of the country while compliance with mask orders dropped. Modi has publicly expressed concern about the spiraling second wave, however, both he and his political rivals have organized massive election rallies flouting pandemic safety norms in the state of West Bengal. While the country has administered more than 110 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines across the country only a fraction of its 1.4 billion population has been fully inoculated. Some states, like Maharashtra, are reporting major vaccine shortages which they claim is hampering rollout. The national government has taken a combative stance against the states, accusing them of poor planning. The Serum Institute of India—the world’s largest vaccine maker which makes the AstraZeneca vaccine under license in India—has said the company’s production capacity is “very stressed” and it needs about $400 million (Rs 30 billion) to expand capacity by June. India has opened its vaccination drive to all people over the age of 45, which currently leaves a massive portion of its young population (with a median age of around 28) without access to vaccines.

Further Reading

India’s Covid Outbreak Is Now The World’s Worst As It Lags In Vaccinations (Forbes)

India breaches 200,000 daily COVID-19 cases as hospital beds, oxygen fall short (Reuters)

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