The pressure is on Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to impose a nationwide lockdown, as COVID-19 case numbers remain high, bodies wash up on riverbanks and doctors report the spread of a rare fungal infection among victims.
The Indian health ministry on Monday (local time) reported 366,161 new infections and 3754 deaths, a very slight dip from recent peaks. India’s tally of infections stands at 22.66 million, with 246,116 deaths.
Experts say India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported.
The 1.47 million samples tested on Sunday for COVID-19 were this month’s lowest yet, data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research showed.
Bodies washed up on riverbanks
Adding to fears that the pandemic is taking an even greater toll than reported, dozens of bodies believed to be COVID-19 victims have washed up on the banks of the Ganges River in northern India.
Local official Ashok Kumar said that about 40 corpses washed up in Buxar district near the border between Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two of India’s poorest states, reports The Guardian.
Some media reports said the number of corpses could be as high as 100. Locals believed the bodies had been dumped in the river because cremation sites were overwhelmed or because relatives could not afford cremation fees.
Black fungus spreads
Meanwhile, Indian hospitals are reporting a rise in cases of a rare but potentially fatal infection, mucormycosis or “black fungus” in COVID-19 patients, especially those who also have diabetes.
“There have been cases reported in several other countries, including the UK, US, France, Austria, Brazil and Mexico, but the volume is much bigger in India,” David Denning, a professor at Britain’s Manchester University and an expert at the Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI) charity, told Reuters.
Calls for a nationwide lockdown to break the chain
Although the Indian capital New Delhi is into its fourth week of strict lockdown, health officials around the world are now pleading with prime minister Modi to extend the restrictions nationwide.
On Monday (Australian time), top White House coronavirus adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said he had advised Indian authorities they needed to shut down.
“You’ve got to shut down … you need to break the chain of transmission. And one of the ways to do that is to shut down,” Dr Fauci said.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also called for a “complete, well-planned, pre-announced” lockdown.