India World

India’s official coronavirus infections cross 18 million; records highest daily cases and deaths

India reported a record 379,257 new cases and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday, taking the total number of cases and deaths now at 18.38 million and 204,832 respectively, according to health ministry data.

The country’s second wave of coronavirus is worsened by shortages of hospital beds and medical oxygen.

Delhi is reporting one death from COVID-19 every four minutes and ambulances have been taking the bodies of COVID-19 victims to makeshift crematorium facilities in parks and parking lots, where bodies burned on rows and rows of funeral pyres.

The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory warning on Wednesday against travel to India because of the pandemic and approved the voluntary departure of family members of U.S. government employees in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for allowing massive political rallies and religious festivals which have been super spreader events in recent weeks.

More than 8.4 million eligible voters are set to vote on Thursday in the last phase of an eight-part election in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, even as the state witnesses a record rise in coronavirus cases.

The World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update that India accounted for 38% of the 5.7 million cases reported worldwide to it last week.

The record surge in infections has prompted an increasingly urgent response from allies overseas sending equipment.

White House said the United States is sending supplies worth more than $100 million to India to help it fight the surge of COVID cases.

The supplies, which will begin arriving on Thursday and continue into next week, include 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and one million rapid diagnostic tests, the statement said.

The US also redirected its own order of AstraZeneca vaccine manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow it to make more than 20 million doses, according to the White House.

Two planes from Russia, carrying 20 oxygen concentrators, 75 ventilators, 150 bedside monitors, and medicines totalling 22 metric tonnes, arrived in the capital Delhi on Thursday.

Taiwan has bought 150 oxygen concentrators and plans to send them to India this weekend and is also looking at providing further aid, foreign minister Joseph Wu said.

India’s best hope to curb its second deadly wave of COVID-19 was to vaccinate its vast population, said experts, and on Wednesday it opened registrations for everyone above the age of 18 to be given jabs from Saturday.

But the country, which is one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines, does not have the stocks for the estimated 600 million people becoming eligible.

Many people who tried to sign up said they failed, complaining on social media that they could not get a slot or they simply could not get online to register as the website repeatedly crashed.

“Statistics indicate that far from crashing or performing slowly, the system is performing without any glitches,” the government said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The government said more than 8 million people had registered for the vaccinations, but it was not immediately clear how many had got slots.

About 9% of India’s population have received one dose since the vaccination campaign began in January with health workers and then the elderly.