New coronavirus infections and deaths set fresh records in India on Wednesday as the country continued its attempts to control the latest wave of the pandemic sweeping the globe.
Authorities registered approximately 295,000 fresh infections and some 2,020 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data. Both were highest-ever single-day tallies.
The cases come amid a steady drumbeat of news of crematoria becoming overwhelmed and experts reporting that the actual numbers are far worse than the ministry’s reports.
Health officials have said the medical system is stretching its limits, with widespread reports of shortages of beds and medical oxygen. Social media accounts are full of people searching for a hospital with a free bed or even basic medicines.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said late on Tuesday that he was only prepared to consider lockdowns as a last measure, favouring instead more localized controls designed to stop the spread of infection.
A nationwide lockdown last year caused widespread confusion. It came with short notice and, since it shut down so much of economic life, prompted may people with jobs in big cities to head home to villages, very likely accelerating the spread of the disease.
New Delhi went into a lockdown again this week, once again prompting many workers to opt to leave the city.
Case counts have been increasing rapidly in recent weeks, possibly because some people have been ignoring basic guidelines such as social-distancing and mask-wearing. There have also been several large religious events in recent weeks that might have helped the spread.
On top of that, mutated versions of the virus are spreading rapidly in the country, compounding the medical problems.
More than 15.6 million people in India have been infected, making it the second-worst-affected country, only behind the US. More than 182,000 have died after becoming infected.