India reported a record 145,384 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday and the highest number of deaths in more than five months, as the nation grapples with an overwhelming second-wave of infections.
Deaths rose by 794 to a total of 168,436, health ministry data showed.
India’s overall case load has swelled to 13.21 million, the third-highest globally, behind the United States and Brazil. India has reported the most number of cases in the world in the past week, breaching the 100,000 mark for the first time on Monday and four times after that.
The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as businesses have nearly fully reopened since February, only to be partially shut again to control the current surge.
Maharashtra, the state with almost half the caseload, has already shut down restaurants, malls and places of worship and barred the movement of most people to control the outbreak that has threatened to overrun medical facilities and created vaccine shortages, officials said. A weekend lockdown came into effect on Saturday which will end on early Monday.
In India’s financial capital Mumbai, hundreds of poor migrant workers crammed onto trains this week fled the city, potentially risking a wider outbreak in smaller towns and villages.
The railways department denied people were fleeing cities because of the surge, calling it a usual rush this time of year because of holidays and as workers move to harvest crops.
India’s drive to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people also looks to be hitting problems, with just 94 million shots provided so far and stocks running low.
In megacity Mumbai, 25 out of 71 private hospitals administering jabs ran out of supplies on Thursday, city authorities said.
The situation at government-run inoculation centres was not much better, with a giant 1,000-bed field hospital turning away people arriving for their first dose on Friday.
City authorities tweeted the shortage was “due to non-receipt of stocks” from the national government.
The Times of India newspaper reported on Friday that states on average had just five days of stock left, according to health ministry data, with some regions already grappling with severe shortages.
But the central government has accused some states of “distracting attention from their failures” and playing politics.
“It is not right to say that there is a vaccine shortage. Vaccines have been made available to all states according to their needs,” Home Minister Amit Shah said.
The CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine-maker by volume, has warned that production capacity is “very stressed”.
Poorer countries, as well as some rich nations, have relied heavily on SII for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but last month New Delhi put the brakes on exports to prioritise domestic needs.