Delhi goes into lockdown as infections soar to record high

PM Modi blasted for staging rallies, allowing religious gatherings as virus surges

NEW DELHI India's capital New Delhi imposed a week-long lockdown from yesterday night as the megacity struggles to contain a huge surge in Covid-19 cases, with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen supplies getting low.

The nation of 1.3 billion people reported a record-high 273,810 infections yesterday - the fifth consecutive day of more than 200,000 cases - to take the total to 15.06 million.

New Delhi, the worst-hit city in India, recorded 25,500 cases on Sunday, with almost a third of those tested returning positive results.

"Delhi's health system is at a tipping point. The Covid-19 situation is pretty critical," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a televised address.

"If we don't impose a lockdown now, we will be looking at a bigger disaster. From tonight there will be a lockdown until next Monday."

He said businesses would be shut and movement around the city of 20 million limited to essential services, from 10pm yesterday to 5am the following Monday.

"The lockdown doesn't end the pandemic but just slows it. We will use this week-long lockdown to improve our healthcare," he said, adding that the healthcare system was "under severe strain" and had "reached its limit".

Many Indians are now pillorying Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his response, sickened by him addressing tens of thousands of people at state election rallies and letting Hindus congregate for a festival.

Tags like #ResignModi and #SuperSpreaderModi trended on Twitter in the past two days, as bodies piled up and desperate cries for hospital beds, medical oxygen and coronavirus tests flooded social media.

Mr Modi and his ministers have campaigned heavily ahead of elections in West Bengal.

"You hold rallies as people head to funerals," Mr Akhilesh Jha, the data head of the Department of Science and Technology, wrote in Hindi on LinkedIn, in a rare public outburst by a government official. "People will hold you accountable..."

On Saturday, Mr Modi requested religious leaders to only symbolically celebrate the Kumbh Mela festival, after tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered daily in close proximity. But that was on the seventeenth day of the festival, scheduled to run until the end of this month. - AFP, REUTERS