India reported more than 400,000 new coronavirus cases Saturday, shattering the worldwide single-day record, as a devastating second wave of the pandemic continues to ravage the country, crippling an already weakened healthcare system.
Covid-related deaths also spiked, with 3,523 fatalities reported in the previous 24 hours.
Eighteen of those deaths were attributable to a fire in a Covid-19 ward on the ground floor of a hospital in western India that also injured 31 other patients.
Despite the alarming numbers, experts say those figures represent only a fraction of total fatalities and infections.
Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan, said daily cases could climb past 500,000 by mid-May.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview with the Indian Express newspaper, advised India to implement a temporary nationwide shutdown, which the U.S. infectious disease expert argued “could have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak.”
The executive director of Batra Hospital hospital in New Delhi took to Twitter Saturday morning to issue an SOS, warning that he and his colleagues were in “crisis mode” due to a lack of oxygen supplies. Batra’s medical director later confirmed that eight coronavirus patients died, including one of the hospital’s own doctors, due to a lack of oxygen over the next hour before tanks were refilled. Last weekend, 26 coronavirus patients died gasping for air at Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi after it ran out of oxygen. Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Thursday that 40 countries have pledged support and promised to send urgently needed oxygen-related equipment and therapeutics. The United States announced Wednesday it would offer thousands of oxygen tanks and concentrators to India as part of a $100 million aid package. The U.S. had already delivered 1,100 refillable oxygen cylinders, the White House said in a statement. India opened coronavirus vaccinations to all adults on Saturday, but the limited supply of the vaccine and access have hampered the rollout. In addition, the University of Exeter’s Dr. Bharat Pankhania told the Associated Press that “ample evidence” shows “having people wait in a long, crowded, disorderly queue could itself be a source of infection.” As of Saturday, only 2.1% of India’s population had been vaccinated.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that the United States would begin restricting travel from India next week. The restrictions “will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high COVID-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India,” Psaki said.
211,853. That’s the total number of reported Covid-related deaths in India as of Saturday morning.