US lawmakers concerned about situation, CDC asks Americans to avoid travel to India.
A Covid tsunami hit India with a record global daily count of 332,730 new cases on Friday, bringing the country’s health system to a breaking point and triggering an exodus of migrant workers from major cities.
India’s total tally of Covid-19 cases climbed to 16.26 million, second only to the United States, with 2.4 million active cases, making it the world’s worst outbreak. The death toll climbed to nearly 187,000 with a record 2,263 new fatalities, according to latest Indian Health Ministry data.
Hospitals across the country are reeling under a severe shortage of medical grade oxygen for Covid patients caught in the deadly sweep of the second wave of infections, which began in mid-March
Everything is in short supply — intensive care unit beds, medicine, oxygen and ventilators. Bodies are piling up in morgues and crematoriums.
With roughly four times more population than the US, India’s daily cases are still fall behind the US, in terms of cases per million people, which recorded a high of 300,310 cases on January 2, second highest globally.
Maharashtra reported 67,000 new cases, Uttar Pradesh 34,250, Kerala 27,000 and Delhi 26,170. Maharashtra reported 568 new deaths, Delhi 306 and Chhattisgarh 207 on Friday.
Doctors at Indian hospitals issued emergency alerts, warning they had only hours of oxygen supplies left. Meanwhile, 13 Covid-19 patients were killed in a fire at a hospital near Mumbai early Friday morning.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met chief ministers of ten states worst hit by the coronavirus infections Friday. They included Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal, Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray, Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan, and Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot.
Modi assured the chief ministers that the Railways and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have been pressed into service for fast and smooth supply of oxygen. Modi also held a couple of meetings with industry players in an effort to maximize supplies.
The Central government on Friday announced its decision to give free ration to about 800 million poor people over the next two months at a cost of Rs 260 billion .
A more infectious “double mutant” variant as well as political failings are being blamed for the crisis. The government is planning to make vaccines available to all adults from May 1.
Earlier, on Tuesday, Modi stressing the urgency of the situation laid out new measures in a late night address to the nation.
“The country is again fighting a very big battle against Covid-19,” he said. “A few weeks ago, the conditions had stabilized — and then came the second wave.”
But a weary public and opposition politicians have taken to social media to air their grievances. Tens of thousands of people took to Twitter with trending hashtags like #ResignModi, #SuperSpreaderModi, and #WhoFailedIndia.
“Covid19 struggle in India is the reflection of (Modi’s) govt,” tweeted Siddaramaiah, the former chief minister of Karnataka state, on Monday.
The government may have been caught off guard by the first wave, he added — but “what is the status now? The preparedness is hopeless even now!”
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee of opposition Trinamool Congress Party, called for Modi’s resignation saying, “The prime minister is responsible.” He “has not done anything to stop Covid nor let anyone else do anything to stop it.”
Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 alert advising Americans to avoid all travel to India.
Because of the current “Very High Level of Covid-19 in India” even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants and should avoid all travel to India, it said.
“If you must travel to India, get fully vaccinated before travel. All travelers should wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid crowds, and wash their hands,” CDC said.
Several US lawmakers have expressed concern over the sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in India and have urged the Biden administration to provide all necessary help to the country.
We have the resources to help, and other people need it; that makes it our moral obligation to do so, Democratic Senator Edward Markey said in a tweet.
The US has more than enough vaccines for every American, but we are denying countries like India desperately needed support, he said.
Concerned about the situation in India, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was sending “my thoughts and support to our friends in India fighting this terrible second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna, while sharing a tweet from leading public health expert Ashish K Jha, said, “India is in the throes of a horrendous Covid surge. Horrendous. They are struggling to get more people vaccinated.”
“We are sitting on 35-40 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine Americans will never use. Can we please give or lend them to India? Like may be now? It’ll help. A lot,” Jha wrote.
However, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Thursday that it’s in the world’s interest that Americans are vaccinated and the US has to first take care of the requirements of its own people.
Asked if President Joe Biden’s administration had made a decision on India’s requests to lift the ban on export of vaccine raw materials to India, Price said, “We have a special responsibility to the American people.”
“It’s, of course, not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated, it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated,” he added.
As for the rest of the world, “We will, of course, always do as much as we can, consistent with our first obligation,” he declared.