April 22, 2021 -- Daily COVID-19 cases and deaths have reached record-high levels in India as a second surge sweeps across the country, prompting governments to impose new lockdown measures in large parts of the country.
India reported more than 295,000 infections on Wednesday and has reported more than 200,000 new infections per day for more than a week. On Wednesday, India’s Health Ministry said more than 2,000 people died from COVID-19 — a record daily death toll.
Many health experts and government officials have said they believe the death toll is much higher than the official count, Voice of America reported, especially because large cities have reported COVID-19 burials and cremations that exceed the official numbers.
So far this week, the capital city New Delhi has imposed a weeklong lockdown, and Uttar Pradesh, a northern state, announced a weekend lockdown that begins Friday night. Maharashtra, India’s western state that includes Mumbai and the hardest-hit COVID-19 region, limited grocery stores and other businesses to four hours per day. Telangana, a state in the southern part of India, imposed a midnight curfew.
With the increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths, both the U.S. and the U.K. announced “do not travel” warnings for India this week, Voice of America reported.
The weeklong lockdown in New Delhi is aimed at preventing the collapse of the city’s health system, according to The Associated Press. Hospitals are at capacity, critical care beds and ventilators are limited, and patients are lined up at medical facilities in search of availability.
Oxygen is also scarce. Hospitals in New Delhi had between four to 24 hours’ worth of oxygen on Tuesday and called for help from the federal government, according to Reuters. In addition, at least six of India’s 30 chief ministers and two federal ministers have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.
“The situation was manageable until a few weeks ago. The second wave of infections has come like a storm,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday, urging people to stay at home but not panic.
“The central and state governments as well as the private sector are together trying to ensure oxygen supplies to those in need,” he said. “We are trying to increase oxygen production and supply across the country.”
Even still, some officials in India have warned against broad lockdown measures as the economy beings to improve. Modi, who imposed a strict lockdown last year, asked states on Tuesday to avoid shutting businesses, according to Bloomberg News.
“I urge states that they should consider lockdowns as the last option,” Modi said. “They should earnestly try to avoid lockdown and focus on micro-containment zones.”
To battle the growth in coronavirus cases, India announced this week that it would begin vaccinating everyone ages 18 and older on May 1, the AP reported. The country has administered more than 120 million doses to its population of nearly 1.4 billion people.