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India records highest Covid death toll yet as cases soar above 200,000 a day

<p>A woman mourns the death of her husband from Covid-19</p>

A woman mourns the death of her husband from Covid-19

/ REUTERS
By
20 April 2021
I

ndia has recorded 1,761 deaths more coronavirus deaths - its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic.

The country also continues to have the world's highest daily infection rate with more than 200,000 new cases recorded on each of the past six days. On Tuesday, the country's health ministry reported 259,170 new infections.

Total coronavirus cases in India are now at 15.32 million, second only to the United States.

It comes after Prime minister Boris Johnson cancelled his trip to India, which has been placed on the UK's travel red list due to the prevalence of a new variant of coronavirus in the country.

Public Health England (PHE) experts are currently unsure whether any of the mutations mean the variant can be transmitted more easily, is more deadly or can evade the effectiveness of vaccines or natural immunity.

Meanwhile, New Delhi, the capital city which has seen a surge in cases, began a six-day lockdown late on Monday that officials hope will slow the virus transmission and relieve the pressure on the health infrastructure.

People in Delhi and in towns of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, put out desperate calls for help on Twitter, asking for assistance getting their families into hospitals. Others reported dire shortage of oxygen and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir.

"(A) monumental tragedy of epic proportions is unfolding across India. No hospital beds, no oxygen, no vaccination," said Manish Tewari, an opposition lawmaker, on Twitter.

A volunteer sprays disinfectant to sanitize a wholesale grain market

/ AFP via Getty Images

India has lost 180,530 people to the disease, still quite a distance from the 567,538 deaths reported in the United States. But experts have warned that the official death toll does not reflect ground reality and that it could sharply rise as doctors struggle to cope with the pressure.

"The huge pressure on hospitals and the health system right now will mean that a good number who would have recovered had they been able to access hospital services may die simply because of this," said Gautam I. Menon, a professor at Ashoka University.

Several major cities are already reporting far larger numbers of cremations and burials under coronavirus protocols than official Covid-19 death tolls, according to crematorium and cemetery workers, the media and a review of government data.

Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said many parts of India were in "data denial".

"Everything is so muddy," she said. "It feels like nobody understands the situation very clearly, and that's very irksome."

So far, 108.5 million people have received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a government portal, a small portion of India's 1.3 billion population.

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