India’s COVID-19 case totals practically 20 million

India reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday for a twelfth day in a row, bringing the total number of cases to just under 20 million, while the number of deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,417.

With 368,147 new cases in the last 24 hours, the total number of infections in India stands at 19.93 million, while the total number of deaths is 218,959, according to the Ministry of Health.

Medical experts say the real number of 1.35 billion across the country could be five to ten times higher than the official figure.

Hospitals are full, medical oxygen supplies are scarce, and morgues and crematoriums are overcrowded as the country is grappling with the surge in some cases.

At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions to contain infection, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown over concerns about the economic impact.

“In my opinion, just a national home stay and medical emergency declaration will help meet current health needs,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan on Twitter.

“The number of active cases is increasing, not just new cases every day. Even the numbers reported indicate that there are around 3.5 million active cases.”

The surge in infections is India’s biggest crisis since Modi took office in 2014. Modi has been criticized for failing to take steps earlier to contain the spread and seeing millions of largely exposed people attending religious festivals and celebrations in March and April attended crowded political rallies in five states.

A government-established forum of scientific advisors warned Indian officials of a new and contagious variant of the coronavirus in the country in early March, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters.

Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government hadn’t tried to impose major restrictions to stop the virus from spreading. Continue reading

It remains to be seen how his handling of the crisis could affect Modi or his party politically. The next parliamentary elections are planned for 2024. Modi’s party was defeated in the Indian state of West Bengal in the results announced on Sunday, despite winning in the neighboring state of Assam.

The leaders of 13 opposition parties signed a letter on Sunday urging Modi to immediately institute free national vaccination and give priority to oxygen supplies to hospitals and health centers.

Several states have postponed the expansion of an adult vaccination campaign due to start on Saturday due to a lack of vaccines. The national health department says states have 10 million vaccines in stock, with 2 million more to come in the next three days.

While India is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, it doesn’t have enough of its own – undermining a plan to ramp up and expand vaccination starting Saturday. Only about 9% of the 1.4 billion people had a dose.

India is struggling to increase capacity to over 80 million doses per month due to a lack of raw materials and a fire at the Serum Institute that makes the AstraZeneca vaccine.

International aid has flowed to India.

Britain will send another 1,000 ventilators to India, the government said on Sunday. Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Modi are due to speak on Tuesday.

The Indian COVID-19 variant has now reached at least 17 countries, including the UK, Switzerland and Iran. Several governments have closed their borders to people traveling from India.

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