India faces vaccine shortages as daily cases hit record high

Over 700 million people to be hit by shortfall, with some regions tightening curbs on activity

MUMBAI: More than 700 million people across India were facing coronavirus vaccine shortages yesterday, local media reported.

India saw more than 126,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, a record high.

Several regions have tightened curbs on activity while Maharashtra, the current epicentre of India's epidemic and home to Mumbai, is set to enter a lockdown at the weekend.

India's vast vaccination programme is reportedly experiencing problems having administered 87 million shots so far in a population of 1.3 billion people.

According to the Times of India, 10 states have stocks that will last only three or four more days, including Uttar Pradesh, home to about 200 million people, as well as Bihar and West Bengal.

In Maharashtra, the state health minister issued a dire warning on Wednesday, saying supplies would run out in three days unless replenished.

"We are having to tell people that since vaccine supplies have not arrived, they should go home," Mr Rajesh Tope said.

However, federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said allegations of shortages in Maharashtra were "utterly baseless".

Total cases in India are nearing 13 million and there have been 170,000 deaths.

Meanwhile, Thailand is considering closing entertainment venues in Bangkok and 40 provinces, its Covid-19 task force said yesterday, as the authorities rushed to tackle a new wave of cases.

The task force urged the public and private sector to let employees work from home and to avoid non-essential travel, while 405 new infections were reported yesterday in a new outbreak connected to Bangkok's famous nightlife.

The spike in infections comes at a tricky time ahead of next week's annual Songkran festival, known for big social gatherings and crowded water fights that authorities have banned.

Thailand has recorded more than 30,300 cases and 95 deaths.

South Korea is also dealing with a surge. It reported 700 new cases yesterday, its highest daily figure since early January, and Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun warned that new social distancing rules would likely be needed.

The new figure compares with an average of 477 cases a day last week, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and will fuel fears the country may be facing a fourth wave of infections.

South Korea has reported 107,598 infections in total, with 1,758 deaths. - AFP, REUTERS