There was a record jump in Covid-19 cases and deaths in India on Thursday, crushing shaky hopes that the recent catastrophic jump that has limited hospitals to their limits could weaken.
Ministry of Health figures show 3,980 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 230,168 and 412,262 new cases, with India having more than 21 million cases since the pandemic began.
Many experts argue that with little testing and poor data on the causes of death – and crematoriums buried in multiple places – the true numbers could be much higher.
The spike comes after days of falling cases, which have raised government hopes that the influx of the virus may have slowed.
After hitting a maximum of 402,000 last Friday, the number of daily cases fell to 357,000 before rising again Tuesday.
Senior health ministry official Love Aggarwal told reporters Monday that it was “a very early signal to move in a positive direction.”
The sharp rise in cases since late March has plagued hospitals in many places with deadly shortages of beds, medicines and oxygen.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government refuses to impose a new blockade, although several regions including the capital New Delhi, Bihar and Maharashtra have imposed local suspensions.
So far, Delhi and Maharashtra have been hardest hit, but other countries including West Bengal, Kerala and Karnataka are on the rise.
Kerala Prime Minister Pinaray Vijayan announced on Twitter on Thursday a week-long ban in the southern state of 35 million, which has one of the best healthcare systems in India.
Health workers wearing PPE clothes visit Covid-19 coronavirus patients in the intensive care unit at Teerthanker Mahaveer University (TMU) in Moradabad on May 5, 2021.
West Bengal, which appears to have just completed an eight-phase election, announced tougher restrictions on Wednesday, including the suspension of local trains. However, weddings are allowed with a maximum of 50 people.
K. Vijay Raghavan, the Indian government’s chief scientific adviser, said on Wednesday that the country must be prepared for another wave of infections with 1.3 billion after the current wave.
“Phase 3 is inevitable given the high percentage of viruses circulating. However, it is not clear to what extent this phase 3 will take place. We have to prepare for a new wave,” Ragavan said at a press conference.
With government criticism of patients dying outside of hospitals, shipments of oxygen and equipment have come from the US, France, Britain, Russia and other countries in recent days.
But India will need more oxygen from other countries to fight the surge until the numbers stabilize, another government official said Monday.
“We don’t have enough oxygen,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. “If we can get more oxygen, more lives will be saved.”
Eleven people died at night in a hospital near the southern city of Chennai after pressure in the oxygen lines dropped, the Times of India reported, in a number of similar incidents at the latest.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has called for “urgent” international action to prevent a “growing humanitarian catastrophe” in South Asia.
He cited the Nepal case as saying “many hospitals are full and overcrowded” with patients with Covid-19 and a daily case volume 57 times higher than a month ago.
Meanwhile, the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) announced on Wednesday that the UK’s Covid-19 strain is on the decline, but India’s B.1.617 variant is increasingly being found.
He stopped saying that the Indian version is responsible for the current growth.
“The increase in current cases in the past month and a half in several states shows a similar link to the growth of the B.1.617 line,” said NCDC chief Sujet Singh.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says option B.1,617 has been reported in more than a dozen countries.
However, it did not say whether these options were more portable, more lethal, or avoided vaccines.