India has recorded three consecutive days of record single-day COVID-19 case rises.
Health authorities on Saturday reported 4187 fatalities in the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to just under 240,000.
Cases rose by 401,078, increasing the pandemic’s total to 21.9 million.
The surge comes as India’s main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi warned that unless the deadly second COVID-19 wave is brought under control, it will devastate India as well as threaten the rest of the world.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing increasing pressure to impose a strict nationwide lockdown amid concerns that restrictions imposed by individual states are inadequate.
In a letter, Mr Gandhi implores Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prepare for another country-wide lockdown, accelerate a vaccination program and scientifically track the virus and its mutations.
Mr Gandhi, leader of the Indian National Congress party, says the world’s second-most populous country has a responsibility in “a globalised and interconnected world” to stop the “explosive” growth of COVID-19 within its borders.
“India is home to one out of every six human beings on the planet. The pandemic has demonstrated that our size, genetic diversity and complexity make India fertile ground for the virus to rapidly mutate, transforming itself into a more contagious and more dangerous form,” Mr Gandhi said.
“Allowing the uncontrollable spread of the virus in our country will be devastating not only for our people but also for the rest of the world.”
Many medical experts, opposition leaders and some Supreme Court judges have also suggested the lockdown seems to be the only option with the virus raging in cities and towns, where hospitals are forced to turn patients away while relatives scramble to find oxygen.
India’s highly infectious COVID-19 variant B.1.617 has already spread to other countries and many have moved to cut or restrict movements from India.
Meanwhile, tonnes of medical equipment from abroad has starting to arrive in Delhi hospitals, in what could ease the pressure on an overburdened system.