India COVID cases cross 18 million
India’s total COVID-19 cases passed 18 million on Thursday after another world record number of daily infections, as gravediggers worked around the clock to bury victims and hundreds more were cremated in makeshift pyres in parks and parking lots, Trend reports citing Reuters.
India reported 379,257 new infections and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday, health ministry data showed, the highest number of fatalities in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
The world's second most populous nation is in deep crisis, with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed.
Mumbai gravedigger Sayyed Munir Kamruddin, 52, said he and his colleagues were working non-stop to bury victims.
“I’m not scared of COVID, I’ve worked with courage. It’s all about courage, not about fear,” he said. “This is our only job. Getting the body, removing it from the ambulance, and then burying it.”
Each day, thousands of Indians search frantically for hospital beds and life-saving oxygen for sick relatives, using social media apps and personal contacts. Hospital beds that become available, especially in intensive care units (ICUs), are snapped up in minutes.
"The ferocity of the second wave took everyone by surprise," K. VijayRaghavan, principal scientific adviser to the government, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper.
"While we were all aware of second waves in other countries, we had vaccines at hand, and no indications from modelling exercises suggested the scale of the surge."
India's military has begun moving key supplies, such as oxygen, across the nation and will open its healthcare facilities to civilians.
Hotels and railway coaches have been converted into critical care facilities to make up for the shortage of hospital beds.
India's best hope is to vaccinate its vast population, experts say, and on Wednesday it opened registration for all above the age of 18 to receive shots from Saturday.
But although it is the world's biggest producer of vaccines, India does not have the stocks for the estimated 800 million now eligible.
Many who tried to sign up for vaccination said they failed, complaining on social media of being unable to get a slot or even to simply get on the website, as it repeatedly crashed.
"Statistics indicate that far from crashing or performing slowly, the system is performing without any glitches," the government said on Wednesday.
More than 8 million people had registered, it said, but it was not immediately clear how many had got slots.
A local official in Mumbai said the city had paused its vaccination drive for three days as supplies were running short, while officials said the worst-hit state of Maharashtra was likely to extend strict coronavirus curbs by another two weeks.