India’s COVID-19 Daily Cases Stay Near Record, Another State Imposes Lockdown

NEW DELHI—India’s new coronavirus cases dipped marginally on Sunday but deaths from COVID-19 jumped by a record 3,689, with one more state going into lockdown as the nation’s healthcare system is unable to cope with the massive caseload.

Authorities reported 392,488 new cases in the previous 24 hours, pushing total cases to 19.56 million. So far, the virus has killed 215,542 people. India reported a record 401,993 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.

Indian hospitals, morgues and crematoriums have been overwhelmed as the country has reported more than 300,000 daily cases for more than 10 days straight. Many families have been left on their own to scramble for medicines and oxygen. Dozens of people have died in the last week due to shortage of oxygen in hospitals in Delhi alone.

Nearly 10 Indian states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions. The federal government remains reluctant to impose a national lockdown.

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A worker wearing a PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) suit takes a momentary break as people perform the last rites of patients who died of COVID-19 during a mass cremation held at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, on May 1, 2021. (Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images)
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Family members wearing protective gear offer prayers next to the pyre of a victim who died of COVID-19 at an open air crematorium set up for the coronavirus victims inside a defunct granite quarry on the outskirts of Bangalore, India, on May 1, 2021. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images)

The eastern state of Odisha became the latest to announce a two-week lockdown, joining Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal. Other states, including Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan have either imposed night curfews or weekend lockdowns.

The Indian Express newspaper reported on Sunday that the country’s COVID-19 task force has advised the federal government to impose a national lockdown.

Last month Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all efforts should be made be avoid a lockdown.

The federal government fears another lockdown will have a devastating impact on the economy. The lockdown imposed last year after the first COVID-19 outbreak led to job losses as economic output fell a record 24 percent in April-June 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier.

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People with breathing problem receive oxygen support for free outside a Gurudwara (Sikh temple), amidst the spread of COVID-19 in Ghaziabad, India, on April 30, 2021. (Adnan Abidi/Reuters)
COVID-19 patients breathe with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, under a tent installed along the roadside in Ghaziabad, India, on April 28, 2021. (Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images)

The major spike in cases has also led to a shortfall in medical staff and, according to media reports, the government is planning to incentivize medicine and nursing student for helping in COVID-19 facilities.

With India’s health system reeling and absenteeism from the workplace soaring—as staff fall ill or take care of relatives— international aid has begun pouring in.

On Sunday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it would send more ventilators for India “very shortly”.

Countries including United States have shipped in critical oxygen equipment, therapeutics and raw materials for vaccine production.

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Airman 1st Class Fernando Beltran, secures oxygen cylinders to a pallet at Travis Air Force Base,  Calif., on April 28, 2021. (Nicholas Pilch/U.S. Air Force via AP)