India Covid latest: Delhi extends lockdown as infection peak of 500,000 cases a day ‘weeks away’

Senior virologist predicts that crisis may still be two weeks away from peak

Sean Russell
Tuesday 27 April 2021 09:36
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Queues seen forming outside hospitals in India as cases rise

The chief minister of Delhi announced on Sunday that India’s capital will extend lockdown measures for a further week following what some are calling a “tsunami” of cases.

Arvind Kejriwal, said, addressing the media: “The corona situation had worsened, which is why we started a six-day lockdown last week. With cases rising at a rapid rate, it was necessary for us to start a lockdown. It was a weapon we wielded to fight the pandemic.

“Given that cases are still rising, we have consulted with the people of Delhi and decided to extend the lockdown by one more week.”

India recorded 349,691 new Covid-19 cases and 2,767 deaths in the last 24 hours, and has recorded the world’s highest spike in cases for four consecutive days, with 54 per cent of cases from five states: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Kerala.

India’s surge is expected to peak in mid-May with the daily count of infections reaching half a million, The Indian Express said, citing an internal government assessment.

“That’s what some virus models suggest,” Shahid Jameel, director of biosciences at Ashoka Univeristy, near Delhi, told The Sunday Times.

As admissions surge, hospitals have begun to run out of oxygen supplies, forcing up the price of remaining supplies, allowing well-connected patients access to the potentially life-saving treatment in private hospitals.

Meanwhile poorer patients rely on the heavily overcrowded free government hospitals where beds are running out, creating chaotic and devastating scenes.

Following pressure on the Biden administration to help India, secretary of state Antony Blinken announced that the US is “working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health care heroes”.

Mr Biden has recently been criticised for blocking the export of supplies that Indian vaccine makers say they need to expand production, while Indian American congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi is urging the president to release doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries experiencing deadly surges, saying that the US can’t “let vaccines sit in a warehouse”.

Boris Johnson meanwhile has also pledged his support, on Friday saying: “We’re looking at what we can do to help and support the people of India,” and described India as a great partner. The prime minister added that the UK could help by potentially providing ventilators or therapeutics.

While some have blamed the new “double-mutant” Indian variant of the virus, some experts partly blame the current crisis on complacency.

“It’s not the virus variants and mutations which are a key cause of the current rise in infections,” Dr Anant Bhan, a bioethics and global health expert, said on Twitter this week. “It’s the variants of ineptitude and abdication of public health thinking by our decision makers.”

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