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India’s rampant second wave of Covid-19 topped 400,000 new daily cases for the first time on Saturday, as the country opened up its massive vaccination drive to all adults despite acute shortages in some states. The pandemic also continues to wreak havoc in Brazil.
Authorities reported 401,993 new cases in the previous 24 hours, the highest daily count in the world, after 10 consecutive days over 300,000. Covid-related deaths jumped by 3,523, taking the total toll in India to 211,853, according to federal health ministry data.
While India is the world’s biggest producer of Covid-19 vaccines, it has a limited number of shots available.
The state of West Bengal state was unable to start a vaccination drive for adults aged between 18 and 45 on Saturday due to shortage of shots and urged the federal government to provide more supplies, said a senior state health official who wished to remain anonymous.
The chief minister of the hard-hit state of Delhi on Friday implored people not to queue at vaccination centres, promising more vaccines would arrive “tomorrow or the day after”.
Army hospitals opened
The worsening surge in infections has overwhelmed hospitals and morgues while families scramble for scarce medicines and oxygen.
On Friday, India’s army opened up its hospitals; troops were also assisting with imported oxygen tankers and vehicles where specialised skills are required, a government statement said.
Experts have blamed the surge on new, more contagious virus variants and mass public gatherings such as political rallies and religious events that were allowed to continue. On Thursday, millions voted in state elections in West Bengal with little regard for social distancing.
Health Minister Harash Vardhan expressed hope that assistance being sent by over 40 countries will plug the shortage in medical supplies. The United States is sending more than 100 million dollars worth of items.
The surge in cases led U.S. President Joe Biden to impose new travel restrictions on India on Friday, barring most non-U.S. citizens from entering the US.
The UK has also sent a first shipment of supplies while EU member states are pooling resources. Japan, Australia and Russia have also promised help.
Brazil’s deadliest month
The pandemic also continued to wreak havoc in Brazil, which on Thursday became the second country to officially top 400,000 Covid-19 deaths. April was Brazil’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with about 100,000 lives lost.
The number of cases and deaths has declined slightly of late, with the daily death toll going down to 2,400 compared to more than 3,100 at the beginning of April.
Local health experts have celebrated the recent decline of cases and deaths, plus the eased pressure on the Brazilian health care system, but only modestly. They fear another wave of the disease, like those seen in some European nations such as France and Germany.
Less than 6 per cent of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Our World in Data, an online research site. President Jair Bolsonaro, who is now being investigated by a Senate panel over his administration’s handling of the crisis, has repeated said he will be the last to get a shot and he has attacked mayors and governors who enforce restrictions to control the virus’ spread.
Shortly after the grim landmark was published, Bolsonaro said in a live broadcast on his social media channels that “a big number of deaths has been announced,” adding that he is “sorry for every death.” But he repeated his stance against social distancing measures.
“I pray to God so there is not a third wave” of the coronavirus, the president said. “But if the lockdown policies continue this country will be dragged to extreme poverty.”
(with AFP and AP)