Coronavirus Deaths: India suffers worst day | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 21, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:30 AM, April 21, 2021

Coronavirus Deaths: India suffers worst day

Many big cities report far bigger cremations, burial numbers

India, the country currently being hit hardest by the pandemic, yesterday reported its worst daily death toll, with large parts of the country now under lockdown amid a fast-rising second wave of infections.

The health ministry said 1,761 people had died in the past day, bringing India's toll to 180,530, still well below the 567,538 deaths reported in the United States, though experts believe India's actual deaths are far more than the official count.

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The world's second most populous country is grappling with its biggest public health emergency after it lowered its guard when coronavirus infections fell to a multi-month low in February, health experts and officials say.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Protection has said all travel should be avoided to India, while Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled an official trip to New Delhi that had been scheduled for next week, and his government said it will add India to its travel "red list".

At least 53 passengers on a flight from New Delhi to Hong Kong have tested positive for coronavirus, authorities said yesterday, as the Chinese financial hub introduced an emergency ban on arrivals from India over a new wave of cases.

The passengers flew into Hong Kong on a flight run by Indian operator Vistara on April 4.

Several major Indian cities are already reporting far larger numbers of cremations and burials under coronavirus protocols than official Covid-19 death tolls, according to crematorium and cemetery workers, the media and a review of government data.

The crisis in hospitals has left people fighting for beds, oxygen and medicines, and doctors said the shortages will inevitably lead to more deaths.

"The huge pressure on hospitals and the health system right now will mean that a good number who would have recovered had they been able to access hospital services may die," said Gautam I. Menon, a professor at Ashoka University.

Yesterday, the health ministry reported 259,170 new infections, a sixth day over 200,000 and getting closer to the peak of nearly 300,000 seen in the United States in January.

Delhi High Court slammed Centre over Covid-19 crisis in the country saying "people will have blood on their hands", if medicines and resources are diverted without application of mind, reports TNN.

VACCINATIONS DRAG

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi - who has also addressed Congress party election rallies in recent weeks - said he had tested positive for the virus.

The hardest-hit western state of Maharashtra announced fresh curbs, restricting opening times for grocery shops and vendors to just four hours a day.

Further north, the capital city Delhi suffered a record overnight death toll following a surge in infections, and began a six-day lockdown late on Monday.

Media reports said the city's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had gone into isolation after his wife tested positive.

People in Delhi and towns of the populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh put out desperate calls for help on Twitter, asking for assistance getting their families into hospitals. Others reported dire shortages of oxygen and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir.

Unicef told Reuters yesterday issues related to the ramp-up of the AstraZeneca shot outside India for supplies to the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility have been resolved, saying it should receive 65 million doses by end-May.

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency said yesterday the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine has possible links to rare blood clot incidents, but reiterated that its benefits still outweighed the risks.

VACCINE PASSPORTS

In the US, the state department is to advise Americans to avoid 80 percent of countries worldwide because of the pandemic.

The state department said its decision to update its travel advisories was to bring it more in line with those from the CDC and "does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country".

The World Health Organization's emergency committee said Monday it was against international travellers being required to have proof of vaccination, partly on grounds such a measure would deepen inequities, reports AFP.

"Do not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution," the committee said in a statement summarising its April 15 meeting, the results of which were only published on Monday.

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