Despite international aid efforts ramping up, the second wave of Covid-19 infections in India continues to intensify, yielding a new record high for daily deaths on Sunday and prompting an outcry—from businessmen and public officials alike—for government intervention to help ease the rate of infection.
In a Sunday statement for the Confederation of Indian Industry, Indian billionaire Uday Kotak called on increased lockdown measures in India and urged “the strongest national steps, including curtailing economic activity, to reduce suffering.”
India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported 3,689 new Covid-19 deaths Sunday, marking the nation’s largest daily death toll yet and bringing the total number of Covid-19 deaths in the country to more than 215,000.
The country also reported 392,488 new cases Sunday, down from a record high of 401,993 reported Saturday but still the second-highest daily tally on record for any country around the world.
Meanwhile, India’s death and infection rates continue to outpace its rate of vaccination: Roughly 157 million vaccines have been administered in the country, up just 1.2% Sunday, and despite India being the world’s leading producer of vaccines, only 2% of its population has been fully inoculated due largely to high vaccine prices and a large impoverished population.
“Enough is enough,” the High Court of Delhi said Saturday as it directed the nation’s central government—which has been criticized for its lackluster pandemic response—to supply oxygen to India’s capital territory of Delhi, warning officials that it may initiate contempt of court proceedings if the order is not implemented.
“The hospitals are full,” Germany’s Ambassador to India, Walter J Lindner, said late Saturday while delivering ventilators to New Delhi, adding that people are sometimes dying in front of hospitals and in their cars because they have no oxygen.
“At this critical juncture when [the] toll of lives is rising… safeguarding lives is of utmost priority and nationwide maximal response measures at the highest level [must be] called for to cut the transmission links,” Kotak said Sunday. “We must heed expert advice on this subject—from India and abroad.”
For roughly two weeks, a second wave of the pandemic has intensified in India—overwhelming hospitals, exhausting the nation’s vaccine supply and making the country the biggest Covid-19 hotspot in the world. Many are blaming India’s ruling party for the outbreak, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned aggressively for crucial state elections while failing to impose measures to help prevent a pandemic outbreak. Now starting to trickle in, election results are pointing to an overwhelming defeat for Modi’s party. “Evidently something went wrong, evidently we were hit by a tsunami,” Narendra Taneja, a spokesperson for India’s ruling party, told CNN last week. “We know we’re in power, we are responsible… our focus is now on how we can save lives.” So far, only six of India’s 29 states have imposed some form of Covid-19 lockdown during the new wave of infections.
According to an early Sunday report by Reuters, Indian officials ignored a forum of scientific advisors in early March who warned of a more contagious Covid-19 variant rapidly spreading around the country. Despite the calls for increased lockdown measures, officials instead held large political rallies attended by millions of maskless people ahead of the elections, Reuters reported.
19.6 million. That’s how many Covid-19 cases have been reported in India through Sunday—the second-most among countries and behind only the United States’ count of 32.4 million.
Speaking to CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said the U.S. is “rushing aid” to India, including therapeutics, ventilators, personal protective equipment and rapid diagnostic tests. The U.S. is also looking to send over a portion of already purchased AstraZeneca vaccines.