NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections on Monday, becoming the second country after the United States to record more than 100,000 new cases in one day, as politicians stage massive election rallies. that increase fears of further spread of the disease. virus.
Hospitals in the worst-hit state, Maharashtra, are being overrun by patients. India’s wealthiest state, home to its trading capital Mumbai and numerous industries, reported a record 57,074 new cases overnight.
The country’s daily infections have increased 12-fold since hitting a multi-month low in early February, when authorities eased most restrictions and people stopped wearing masks and social distancing continued.
With 103,558 new infections, India has reported 12.6 million cases, the highest after the United States and Brazil, data from the Health Ministry showed. Deaths rose by 478, still one of the lowest death rates in the world, bringing the total to 165,101.
India has recorded the highest number of infections in the last week in the world. More infectious variants of the virus may have played a role in the second surge, some epidemiologists say.
“The new variant, or variants of concern, probably explains a lot, rather than a simplistic explanation of the behavior,” said Rajib Dasgupta, director of the Center for Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
India has found hundreds of cases of virus variants first detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
Subhash Salunke, a former WHO official advising Maharashtra on its COVID-19 strategy, said cases in the state would continue to rise for a further couple of weeks. He said one way out was to vaccinate all adults in the worst-hit cities, such as Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.
“If we start to do this, at the end of April we will see a downward trend,” he said.
India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has injected 77 million doses at home since it began its campaign in mid-January, the third highest after the United States and China.
Yet India’s per capita COVID-19 vaccines are lower than many other countries, including the more populous China, which began injecting its citizens much earlier.
India is currently vaccinating only people over the age of 45, having first covered healthcare and frontline workers with the AstraZeneca and another government-backed vaccine.
At a meeting held by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, officials discussed further increasing the country’s vaccine production. In recent weeks, the government has slowed vaccine exports, after shipping more than 65 million doses.
“It was highlighted that every effort is being made to ensure adequate quantities of vaccines to meet growing national requirements, as well as to meet the genuine needs of other countries,” his office said in a statement here.
Although cases have risen exponentially in nearly a dozen states, politicians and ministers are still addressing election rallies attended by tens of thousands of unmasked people fighting for space.
The health minister in the northeastern state of Assam, who is currently voting to elect a new government, was ridiculed on social media over the weekend after saying there was no need for masks in his state and that wearing one hurts businesses like Beauty salons.
Maharashtra will begin closing shopping malls, cinemas, bars, restaurants and places of worship starting Monday night. Authorities will also impose a complete lockdown on weekends, as experts are concerned about a shortage of critical care beds in hospitals, especially in their smaller cities.
The increase in cases has pushed the stock market down.
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(Interactive graphical tracking of the global spread of the coronavirus: here here))
Report by Rama Venkat Bengaluru and Neha Arora in New Delhi; Written by Krishna N. Das; Edited by Himani Sarkar and Michael Perry