India has crossed a grim milestone of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of new infections tears through cities and rural areas alike and overwhelms healthcare systems on the brink of collapse.
The health ministry on Wednesday confirmed 3293 daily COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 201,187, as the world’s second most populous country endures its darkest chapter of the pandemic yet.
The country also had 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million.
The previous high of 350,000 on Monday had capped a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic.
India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, is the fourth to top 200,000 deaths, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico. And as in many nations, experts believe the coronavirus infections and fatalities in India are severe undercounts.
For the past week, more than 2000 Indians have died every day.
Hospitalisations have reached record highs, overwhelming healthcare workers. Patients are suffocating because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out.
Desperate family members are sending SOS messages on social media, hoping someone would help them find oxygen cylinders, empty hospital beds and critical drugs for their loved ones.
Crematoriums have spilled over into car parks, lighting up night skies in some cities.
With its health system sinking fast, India is looking at other nations to pull it out of the record surge.
Many countries have offered assistance, including the US, which has promised to help with personal protective equipment, tests and oxygen supplies. The US will also send raw materials for vaccine production, strengthening India’s capacity to manufacture more AstraZeneca doses.
Health experts say huge gatherings during Hindu festivals and mammoth election rallies in some states have accelerated the unprecedented surge India is seeing now.
The national capital Delhi is in lockdown, as are the southern states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Some other states, too, have enforced restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, India’s vaccination program appears to be struggling. So far nearly 10 per cent of the country’s population have received one jab, but just more than 1.5 per cent have received both vaccines.
Indians 18 and older will be eligible for a vaccine from Saturday.