By Erin Cunningham | PressTv
India on Wednesday reported another record number of coronavirus cases and deaths, nudging its official covid-19 death toll past 200,000 as the virus coursed through urban centers and out into more rural areas.
In a new global record, authorities there logged 360,960 infections in a 24-hour period, bringing the total number of cases to more than 17.9 million. India also reported 3,293 deaths, even as experts warned that many virus fatalities were going uncounted.
In some cities, makeshift crematoriums have been erected to cope with the growing number of dead. Over the past week alone, according to official figures, more than 2,000 infected people have died in India every day.
India is driving a global surge in cases, accounting for 38 percent of infections recorded in the seven-day period ending April 25, the World Health Organization said.
The agency blamed multiple virus variants now in circulation in India for the devastating surge, including at least two first detected in Britain and South Africa that have been linked with higher rates of transmission. It also pointed to a premature relaxation of restrictions, which led in part to large gatherings at religious festivals and massive political rallies.
India’s public health emergency has been compounded by severe medical supply shortages, including dwindling reserves of oxygen and potentially lifesaving drugs. Many Indians have taken to social media to crowdsource oxygen cylinders and even plead for open hospital beds.
On Wednesday, just 10 intensive care beds were available for covid-19 patients in Delhi, a city of more than 17 million people, according to a government dashboard. Authorities pledged to mobilize resources, including from the armed forces which said it was tapping into its own oxygen supply and pulling retired medical personnel back into service to assist with the crisis.
In Uttar Pradesh state, India’s most populous, police said that they arrested dozens of people for selling oxygen and medicine used to treat covid-19 on the black market.
But outrage at the government over the debacle was growing.
“When the country is struck by such a catastrophe, a stupefied establishment is helplessly looking for clues,” read a column posted Tuesday on The Wire, an independent news site in India. “Who is responsible for the oxygen and vaccine shortages? Where is the Indian state?