Marking a new grave milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, India recorded 312,731 new infections in a 24-hour period, India’s health ministry said on Thursday. This is the highest daily incidence count in one country since the virus surfaced in China more than a year ago.
India’s total echoed the previous day’s highest of 300,669 cases, set in the United States on January 8, according to a database from the New York Times.
Over the past two months, the outbreak in India has exploded, with reports of ultrasonic agglomerations, oxygen shortages and ambulances lined up outside hospitals due to the lack of ventilators for new patients.
As cases worldwide reach new weekly records, 40 percent of infections are from India, a sobering reminder that the pandemic is far from over, even as infections and vaccinations accelerate in the United States and other rich parts of the world. India has surpassed 15.6 million total infections, the second largest after the United States.
The death toll has also begun to climb unscathed.
On Thursday, the Indian government recorded 2,104 deaths, and on average more than 1,300 people have died from the virus every day for the past week. That’s less than at the worst points of the pandemic in the US or Brazil, but it’s a steep rise from just two months ago, when fewer than 100 people in India died every day.
There are signs that the country’s health system, fragmented even before the pandemic, is collapsing under the strain. On Tuesday, at least 22 people died in a crash in Nashik city center when a leak in the main oxygen tank of a hospital interrupted oxygen flow for Covid-19 patients.
The picture is shockingly different from early February, when India was recording just 11,000 cases a day on average, and domestic drug companies were pumping millions of vaccine doses. More than 132 million Indians have received at least one dose, but supplies are running low and experts warn that the country is unlikely to reach its goal of vaccinating 300 million people by the summer.
Critics say Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who enforced a nationwide harsh lockdown in March 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic, failed to prepare for a second wave or warn Indians to remain vigilant against the virus, especially as more infectious variants begin to spread. .
Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has also allowed a huge Hindu festival to be held, drawing millions of pilgrims to the banks of the Ganges River, and his party has held packed political rallies in several states.
“India’s rapid slide into this unprecedented crisis is a direct result of complacency and a lack of government preparedness,” Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in Washington, wrote in The New York Times on Tuesday.
The hardest hit region is Maharashtra, a densely populated western province that includes the financial hub of Mumbai. On Wednesday, the state’s top leader ordered government offices to operate at 15 percent capacity and impose new restrictions on marriages and private transportation to slow the spread of the virus.