Coronavirus

India reports record surge in COVID-19 cases amid growing pressure to expand vaccination campaign

A woman carrying a baby is screened for temperature on arrival by train at Dadar Terminus, Mumbai, the capital of the hardest-hit state Maharashtra. Source: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The total number of cases since the first recorded infection in India just over a year ago now stands at 12.8 million, making it the third worst-hit country after the United States and Brazil.

India's second wave of coronavirus infections has continued to swell as it reports a record 115,736 new cases, a 13-fold increase in just over two months and raising pressure on the government to expand its vaccination campaign.

The federal government has asked states to decide on local curbs to control the spread of the virus but has so far refused to impose any national lockdown after the last one in 2020 devastated its economy and left millions of people penniless.

The total number of cases since the first recorded infection in India just over a year ago now stands at 12.8 million, making it the third worst-hit country after the United States and Brazil.

Ominously, the daily increase has topped 100,000 twice this week. The only other country to post such numbers has been the United States.

Daily infections in India have also passed the peak of the epidemic's first wave, seen in September. The country had reported a multi-month low of 8635 cases in early February.

And as the second wave gathered momentum, authorities in many states including hardest-hit Maharashtra have ordered new local restrictions to contain the virus, some of whose variants have become more infectious.

"The pandemic isn't over and there is no scope for complacency," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter, urging people to get "vaccinated on your turn and follow COVID-appropriate behaviour scrupulously!"

But many states have criticised the federal government as India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, has restricted its immunisation drive to frontline workers and people aged over 45 years.

Aam Aadmi Party workers protest against the central government’s age cap for Covid-19 vaccinations which only allows inoculation for people above age 45.
Aam Aadmi Party workers protest against the central government’s age cap for Covid-19 vaccinations which only allows inoculation for people above age 45.
Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India has so far administered 85 million doses, more than 90 per cent of those the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India. The rest has come from Indian company Bharat Biotech that has developed a vaccine with a government research body.

Both vaccines require two doses. More than 74 million people in India have received at least one dose.

Only the US and China have vaccinated more people, having started their campaigns earlier. But with the contagion accelerating, India is in a far harder race to increase immunity among its population of 1.35 billion people.

Compelled by its domestic needs, India has now delayed exports of large quantities of vaccines, though 64.5 million does have been shipped so far.

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