Coronavirus: US tells citizens to leave India as New Delhi opens vaccine registration

India reported 379,257 new Covid cases and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday

TOPSHOT - Relatives in personal protective equipment (PPE) suits watch the cremation of their loved one who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus at Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium in New Delhi on April 28, 2021. AFP
TOPSHOT - Relatives in personal protective equipment (PPE) suits watch the cremation of their loved one who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus at Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium in New Delhi on April 28, 2021. AFP

The US government told its citizens to leave India after the country reported another record number of daily infections and deaths on Thursday.

The country has confirmed 18.4 million Covid-19 cases and more than 204,000 deaths.

New cases rose globally for a ninth week as a surge in India outweighed declines in most regions, according to the World Health Organisation.

"India’s Covid outbreak is a humanitarian crisis," US Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

"I’m leading a letter to Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to find out what steps they’re taking to expand global access to their vaccines to save lives and prevent variants from spreading around the world," she tweeted.

India reported a record 379,257 new Covid-19 cases and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday, according to Health Ministry data. It was the deadliest day so far for any country hit by the pandemic.

New Delhi is reporting one death from Covid-19 every four minutes and ambulances are taking the bodies of Covid-19 victims to makeshift crematorium facilities in parks and parking lots, where bodies are cremated on rows and rows of funeral pyres.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces criticism for allowing huge political rallies and religious festivals, which have been super spreader events in recent weeks.

More than 8.4 million eligible voters could cast ballots on Thursday in the last phase of an eight-part election in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, even as the state experiences a record increase in coronavirus case numbers.

Nationwide jabs needed

India's best hope to curb this second deadly wave of Covid-19 is to vaccinate its vast population, experts said.

Registrations opened on Wednesday for everyone above the age of 18 to have a vaccine administered, starting on Saturday.

But the country, which is one of the world's biggest producers of vaccines, does not have the stocks for the estimated 600 million people becoming eligible.

Many people who tried to sign up said they failed, complaining on social media that they could not get a slot or they simply could not get online to register because the website repeatedly crashed.

"Statistics indicate that far from crashing or performing slowly, the system is performing without any glitches," the government said on Wednesday.

The government said more than eight million people had registered for the vaccinations, but it was not immediately clear how many were given got slots.

About 9 per cent of India's population has received one dose since the vaccination campaign began in January, starting with health workers and then the elderly.

"The people of this country are entitled to a full and honest account of what led more than a billion people into a catastrophe," Vikram Patel, Pershing Square Professor of Global Health in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in The Hindu newspaper.

Continued Global Support

The second wave of infections overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums and prompted an increasingly urgent response from allies overseas, who sent equipment.

The United States redirected its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, which will allow it to make more than 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the White House.

India will also receive a first batch of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine on May 1.

Russia's sovereign wealth fund, which is marketing Sputnik V globally, signed agreements with five leading Indian manufacturers for more than 850 million doses of the vaccine a year.

Two planes from Russia, carrying 20 oxygen concentrators, 75 ventilators, 150 bedside monitors and medicines totalling 22 metric tonnes, arrived in the capital New Delhi on Thursday.

The United States is sending supplies worth more than $100 million to India, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and a million rapid diagnostic tests, the White House said on Wednesday. It said the supplies will begin arriving on Thursday.

The South Asia head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Udaya Regmi, said the world was entering a critical phase of the pandemic and needed to have vaccinations available for all adults as soon as possible.

Early modelling showed that the B.1.617 variant of the virus detected in India had a higher growth rate than other variants in the country, suggesting increased transmissibility, it said.

The WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update that India accounted for 38 per cent of the 5.7 million cases reported worldwide to it last week.

Updated: April 29, 2021 02:28 PM

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