India records deadliest day of year with 1,761 Covid-19 fatalities

Surge of Covid cases sparked by complacency and much more infectious new variants

NEW DELHI: India yesterday reported its worst daily death toll amid a fast-rising second wave of Covid-19 infections.

The Health Ministry said 1,761 people had died in the past day, bringing India's total number of fatalities to 180,530. While the figure is well below the 567,538 deaths reported in the United States, many experts believe India's actual deaths are far more than the official count.

The country is grappling with its biggest public health emergency after it lowered its guard when coronavirus infections fell to a multi-month low in February, experts said.

Several major cities are already reporting far larger numbers of cremations and burials than official virus death tolls, according to crematorium workers, the media and a review of government data.

The crisis in hospitals has left people fighting for beds, oxygen and medicine, and doctors said the shortages will inevitably lead to more deaths.

"The huge pressure on hospitals and the health system right now will mean that a good number who would have recovered had they been able to access hospital services may die," said Professor Gautam I. Menon of Ashoka University.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry reported 259,170 new infections, a sixth day over 200,000 and getting closer to the peak of nearly 300,000 in the US in January.

Total cases in India is now at 15.32 million, second only to the US, with epidemiologists saying far more infectious new variants were one of the main factors behind the latest surge.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi - who has addressed Congress party election rallies in recent weeks - said he had tested positive.

The hardest-hit state of Maharashtra announced fresh curbs, restricting opening times for grocery shops and vendors to just four hours a day. Capital Delhi suffered a record overnight death toll following a surge in infections and began a six-day lockdown late on Monday.

Media reports said the city's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had gone into isolation after his wife tested positive.

People in Delhi and towns in Uttar Pradesh put out desperate calls for help on Twitter, asking for assistance getting their families into hospitals.

Others reported dire shortages of oxygen and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir. Diagnostics firms in big cities were overwhelmed by the numbers of coronavirus tests being sought, officials said. - REUTERS