India recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic yet with 3,689 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Sunday was the fourth straight day India has recorded more than 3,000 deaths as the second wave of the pandemic carries on unabated and keeps setting grim new records. Altogether 215,542 people have died from COVID-19.
The number of cases surged to 19.5 million with 392,488 new infections, government data showed. India became the first country to cross 400,000 daily cases on Saturday.
Healthcare systems are overwhelmed and a shortage of medical oxygen has emerged as the most serious challenge.
Thirty-four patients died because of oxygen shortages in hospitals in the national capital New Delhi and the states of Andhra Pradesh and Haryana on Saturday, the Times of India reported.
Thirty-one more with COVID-19-like symptoms and “breathing difficulties” died in a hospital Uttar Pradesh state, the report cited authorities as saying.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting on Sunday to review the measures being taken to tackle the unprecedented surge.
India opened a new round of its vaccinations on Saturday, extending coverage for all those above 18 years, but only a handful of states were able to deliver the jabs because of a shortage of vaccines. Only 86,000 newly eligible people took the shot, the government said.
International aid is arriving from the United States, Germany, and other countries that have promised support to India as its healthcare system is pushed to the brink of collapse.
Vote count in 5 states
Meanwhile, India’s election officials started counting votes in five states.
Vote counting in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry is scheduled to end on Sunday with results to be announced once the tallies are done.
The results are seen as a test of the impact the pandemic’s devastating second wave is having on support for Modi and his right-wing BJP party.
While Modi’s ruling BJP is seeking to consolidate its hold over more states, the main opposition Congress party and regional parties hope to regain political turf.
More than 1,000 election observers will conduct the counts with each expected to produce a negative COVID-19 test report or show they have been fully vaccinated.
Most of the votes were cast in March but polling in some constituencies continued through April, just as India started detecting thousands of coronavirus infections every day.
Ahead of the surge in COVID-19 cases, leaders of all political parties, including Modi, led political rallies where large crowds flouted rules on social distancing and mask-wearing.
Political analysts said these elections are a crucial chance for Modi to extend his national domination, expand his party’s footprint and dislodge one of his sharpest critics.
Modi has been criticised for focusing on the state elections instead of the pandemic. Some experts blame the rallies and mass religious gatherings attended by millions for the severity of the second wave.
The federal government has also been accused of failing to respond to a warning in early March from its own scientific advisers that a new and more contagious variant was taking hold in the country.