India's Covid-19 death toll crosses 500,000 mark

Health ministry confirms nearly 150,000 fresh cases

Relatives perform the last rites during the cremation of Ramdhan, 55, who died from the coronavirus disease, at a crematorium in New Delhi on February 4, 2022. Reuters
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India’s Covid-19 death toll on Friday crossed 500,000 as it recorded nearly 1,100 more fatalities, according to Health Ministry, making the nation one of the worst affected globally.

The South Asian nation is the third country to cross the half-a-million mark, after Brazil and the US.

The ministry said nearly 150,000 fresh cases were confirmed in the country as a third wave driven by highly-infectious variant Omicron continued unabated, although numbers have fallen considerably in the past week.

India’s total caseload touched 41 million on Friday.

The ministry said 1,072 deaths were reported in the country taking the death toll to 500,055. Many of the latest deaths were previously unreported.

Of the total deaths, 355 were reported from the tiny southern Kerala state, which has been revising its fatality data from last year.

The latest figures came a day after the government said the pandemic situation was improving in the country, even though some states were a concern.

Health Ministry official Luv Agarwal had said at a press conference on Thursday that the worst could be over as the third wave has reached its peak and cases have started declining.

India reported a peak of 3,47,254 cases in mid-January, compared with 414,188 cases during the peak of the second wave last May.

“We are seeing a continued decline in Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks and active cases are also declining … the cases have halved since the peak on January 21,” the Health Ministry's Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said.

The second-most populous nation crossed the grim milestone of 400,000 deaths in July last year.

Half of the deaths were recorded during the brutal second wave driven by the Delta variant that swept across the country and hit its healthcare system.

More than 20 million were believed to have been infected while hundreds of thousands struggled for oxygen, medicines and hospital beds.

Crematoriums and graveyards across the country were overwhelmed while hundreds of bodies of suspected Covid victims were seen floating in the Ganges river as many people in rural areas failed to conduct ritualistic funerals.

Many independent studies have indicated that India’s official figures do not reflect the true picture, and that fatalities and infection rates are probably more than six times higher.

A health worker inoculates a student with a dose of the Covishield vaccine against Covid-19 in Bangalore on February 4, 2022.  AFP

Last July the Washington-based Centre for Global Development said four million people were killed in the pandemic.

Prabhat Jha, a researcher from the University of Toronto, last month said more than three million people had died in the country since the pandemic began in January 2020.

Updated: February 04, 2022, 2:16 PM
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