Expert urges national order to stay home as India’s COVID cases are close to 20 million
© Reuters. A doctor checks an x-ray of a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a COVID-19 ward of a New Delhi hospital
By Tanvi Mehta and Shilpa Jamkhandikar
NEW DELHI / MUMBAI (Reuters) – India reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday for a twelfth day in a row, bringing the total number of cases to just under 20 million as scientists forecast the pandemic would peak in the coming days .
With 368,147 new cases in the past 24 hours, the total number of infections in India was 19.93 million, while the total number of deaths rose 3,417 to 218,959, according to the Ministry of Health.
Medical experts say the actual figure of 1.35 billion across the country could be five to ten times higher than the official figure.
The Ministry of Health gave a glimmer of hope, reporting that positive cases in terms of the number of tests performed on Monday decreased for the first time since at least April 15.
India’s coronavirus cases could peak a few days earlier than an earlier estimate between May 3rd and 5th, according to a mathematical model by a team of scientists advising the government, as the virus has spread faster than expected.
Hospitals are full, medical oxygen supplies are scarce, and morgues and crematoriums are overcrowded as the country is grappling with the surge in some cases.
At least eleven states and union territories have restricted movement in some way to contain infection. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to announce a national lockdown as it is concerned about the economic impact.
“In my opinion, just a national home stay and medical emergency declaration will help meet current health needs,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan on Twitter.
“The number of active cases is increasing, not just new cases every day. Even the numbers reported indicate that there are around 3.5 million active cases.”
CRISIS TEST MODES
The surge in infections is India’s biggest crisis since Modi took office in 2014. Modi has been criticized for not taking steps earlier to contain the spread and for millions of largely exposed people attending religious festivals and overcrowding in March and April participated in political rallies in five states.
A government-established forum of scientific advisors warned Indian officials of a new and contagious variant of the coronavirus in the country in early March, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters.
Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government hadn’t tried to impose major restrictions to stop the virus from spreading.
It remains to be seen how his handling of the crisis could affect Modi or his party politically. The next parliamentary elections are planned for 2024. Modi’s party was defeated in the Indian state of West Bengal in the results announced on Sunday, despite winning in the neighboring state of Assam.
Leaders from 13 opposition parties signed a letter on Sunday urging Modi to immediately institute free national vaccination and give priority to oxygen supplies to hospitals and health centers.
Several states have postponed the expansion of an adult vaccination campaign due to start on Saturday due to a lack of vaccines. While India is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, it doesn’t have enough of its own. Only about 9% of the population had a dose.
India is struggling to increase capacity to over 80 million doses per month due to a lack of raw materials and a fire at the Serum Institute, which makes AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 vaccine.
Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 is in talks with the Indian government seeking an “accelerated approval route” for its COVID-19 vaccine, its CEO Albert Bourla said on LinkedIn on Monday, announcing a drug donation of more than 70 worth Million US dollars.
India announced last month that its Medicines Agency will decide on emergency use applications for foreign COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer, within three working days of application.
International aid has flowed to India in response to the crisis.
Britain will send another 1,000 ventilators to India, the government said on Sunday. Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Modi are due to speak on Tuesday.
The Indian COVID-19 variant has now reached at least 17 countries, including the UK, Switzerland and Iran. Several governments have closed their borders to people traveling from India.