© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Volunteers and relatives prepare to cremate the bodies of people who have died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a crematorium in the village of Giddenahalli on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India on May 2, 2021. REUTERS / Samuel Rajkumar
By Rajendra Jadhav and Sumit Khanna
SATARA / AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) – India suspended its most popular sports tournament on Tuesday and the country’s opposition leader called for a nationwide lockdown as the number of coronavirus infections surged over 20 million, a dire milestone only the US has passed.
Cricket officials put the moneyless Indian Premier League (IPL) on hold after the country added 10 million cases in just over four months, compared to more than 10 months for the first 10 million.
“These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring something positive and cheering, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone returns to their families and loved ones during these difficult times,” said the IPL said in a statement.
With 3.45 million active cases, India recorded 357,229 new infections in the past 24 hours while the death toll rose 3,449, bringing the figure to 222,408, according to data from the Ministry of Health. However, experts say the actual numbers could be five to ten times higher.
“The only way to stop the spread of corona is through a complete lockdown … The Indian government’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” said Gandhi, a member of Congress, on Twitter, referring to the government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown fearing the economic consequences, but several states have imposed social restrictions.
The impoverished eastern state of Bihar ordered a lockdown until May 15 to contain the virus, Prime Minister Nitish Kumar said on Twitter. With more than 100,000 infections, the death toll is close to 3,000, government figures show.
The cricket-obsessed nation’s stop at the IPL tournament was a result of the virus crisis, chairman Brijesh Patel told Reuters. The tournament, with an estimated brand value of $ 6.8 billion, was played in front of a large, no-viewer television audience this year, but has been heavily criticized for continuing at a time when the country’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse .
PEAK THIS WEEK
The rise in the highly contagious Indian variant has flooded the health system and depleted supplies of life-saving oxygen as those affected have died in ambulances and parking garages outside of hospitals.
Rows of pyres set up in parks and other open spaces are used to burn corpses overflow.
Modi has been criticized for not moving sooner to contain the recent wave of infections and for allowing millions of largely exposed people to attend religious festivals and overcrowded political rallies in March and April.
But a glimmer of hope surfaced Monday in comments from a health ministry official who said the infections were plateauing in some regions.
Government modeling suggests a peak by Wednesday, a few days earlier than a previous estimate, as the virus has spread faster than expected.
India’s surge coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations, hit by problems with supply and delivery.
At least three states, including Maharashtra, the richest and home of the commercial capital Mumbai, reported vaccine shortages and closed some vaccination centers.
The state injected 79,491 doses on Monday, up from a record 534,372 a week ago.
In Modi’s neighboring home state of Gujarat, the three largest cities Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara restricted vaccines to people between the ages of 18 and 44.
“Tired of Standing”
The eastern state of Odisha also stopped vaccinations in 11 of its 30 districts, local health officials told Reuters as resources were scarce.
“I’m tired of standing in line,” said Anil Rajapure, a 49-year-old farmer in Maharashtra’s temple city of Wai, as he waited for his first dose of vaccine.
“I’ll try again. If I don’t get it, I’ll give up,” said Rajapure, adding that three previous attempts had proven unsuccessful, either because stocks ran out or hadn’t arrived.
Forecasts by the two current Indian vaccine manufacturers show that it will take two months or more for total monthly production to increase from the current 70 million to 80 million doses.
The number of people eligible for vaccination has doubled since May 1 to an estimated 800 million. Only 9.5% of the 1.35 billion population received a dose.
India has invited Pfizer (NYSE :), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE 🙂 and Modern (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc to sell vaccines there but hasn’t applied for any.
Pfizer has told India that there are no concerns about the safety of its product as authorities insist on small local trials of foreign vaccines despite a record spike in infections and dose shortages.
International relief supplies received Tuesday included 545 oxygen concentrators from the United States in their fifth medical device shipment.