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India Covid: Calls grow for national lockdown India Covid: Opposition calls for full national lockdown
(about 1 hour later)
India produces thousands of tonnes of oxygen a day but a supply crunch has impacted the capital Delhi Calls for a second national lockdown have also come from business leaders and health experts
Pressure is mounting on India's government to impose a national lockdown as the country recorded more than 20 million Covid infections. India's main opposition party has called for a full national lockdown, shortly after the country passed more than 20 million Covid-19 infections.
There has been a "virtual collapse of health services" and a lockdown is needed to "break the chain", a spokesman for the Congress party said.
The prime minister is resisting the move due to the economic impact.The prime minister is resisting the move due to the economic impact.
India added more than 355,000 cases on Tuesday, down from more than 400,000 daily infections on 30 April.India added more than 355,000 cases on Tuesday, down from more than 400,000 daily infections on 30 April.
The government says cases are "slowing down", but testing numbers have also dipped, meaning the true caseload could be far higher. Cases are "slowing down", the government said, but testing numbers have also dipped meaning the true caseload could be far higher.
Confirmed infection numbers have however been consistently falling in Maharashtra state, which has driven the second wave since early April. India's Covid crisis: Your questions answered
The decision to impose restrictions in India is made by individual state authorities, rather than the central government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that states should only consider restrictions as "a last option." Deadly second wave spreads from cities to small towns
But there are increasing calls for a second national lockdown coming from senior politicians, business leaders, international health experts and India's main opposition Congress party. Backlash after China Weibo post mocks India Covid crisis
Rahul Gandhi, the senior Congress leader, said there was no other way to stop the spread of the virus, tweeting: "A crime has been committed against India." "We are now forced - there is no option - [we] will have to resort to a national lockdown to break the chain, to restore some order in the health services," Pawan Khera, a spokesman for the opposition Congress party told the BBC on Tuesday.
Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress leader, said there was no other way to stop the spread of the virus.
I just want to make it clear that a lockdown is now the only option because of a complete lack of strategy by GOI. They allowed, rather, they actively helped the virus reach this stage where there’s no other way to stop it. A crime has been committed against India.I just want to make it clear that a lockdown is now the only option because of a complete lack of strategy by GOI. They allowed, rather, they actively helped the virus reach this stage where there’s no other way to stop it. A crime has been committed against India.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America's top public health expert, described the situation as "extremely serious" and said a nationwide lockdown is needed, as well as a massive vaccination drive and the construction of makeshift hospitals. Calls for a second national lockdown have also come from business leaders, international health experts and other senior politicians.
Last year, Narendra Modi was heavily criticised after imposing a nationwide lockdown with less than four hours' notice. It caused a devastating humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of migrant workers were left without work and forced to walk hundreds of kilometres to their native villages. Members of India's Covid-19 taskforce, which advises the central government, are "pushing hard" for a two-week lockdown, The Indian Express reported.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America's top public health expert, described the situation as "extremely serious" and said a nationwide lockdown was needed alongside a massive vaccination drive and the construction of makeshift hospitals.
The decision to impose restrictions in India is made by individual state authorities rather than the central government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that states should only consider restrictions as "a last option".
But many states have still introduced restrictions. The northern state of Bihar is the latest to have announced a full lockdown while the capital, Delhi, and the financial hub, Mumbai, are also under restrictions.
Prime Minister Modi was heavily criticised last year for imposing a nationwide lockdown with less than four hours' notice. It caused a humanitarian crisis as tens of thousands of migrant workers were left without work and forced to walk hundreds of kilometres to their home villages.
Locked down India struggles as workers flee citiesLocked down India struggles as workers flee cities
India's PM seeks 'forgiveness' over virus lockdownIndia's PM seeks 'forgiveness' over virus lockdown
The lockdown saw India's economic output fall by a record 24% between April and June 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, and the government has said another national lockdown would have dire consequences for the country's economy. The lockdown also saw India's economic output fall by a record 24% between April and June 2020 compared to the same period a year earlier, and the government has said another national lockdown would have dire consequences for the economy.
But business leaders have joined the calls for the measure. Members of India's Covid-19 taskforce which advises the central government are "pushing hard" for a two week lockdown, The Indian Express reported, citing an anonymous member. India's second wave has been fuelled by lax safety protocols and massive public festivals and election rallies. It has overwhelmed its hospitals and delays in testing, diagnosis and treatment - as well as a shortage of critical care beds and crucial drugs - have resulted in a spike in deaths.
"A nationwide lockdown rather than what we are doing now, in bits and pieces across states, because of the simple fact that it is spreading all over," they are quoted as saying. The country has so far reported more than 222,000 deaths due to the virus. But experts say India's Covid death toll is vastly under-reported.
Many states have introduced restrictions, from full lockdowns to night curfews. The northern state of Bihar, which has been adding about 13,000 daily cases in recent days, is the latest to announce a full lockdown -only essential services, such as government offices, groceries and hospitals, will be open. There have been very long lines at crematoriums, mass funeral pyres and cities running out of space to bury or cremate the dead.
The capital, Delhi and financial hub, Mumbai, are also currently under restrictions.
Meanwhile an oxygen shortage has shown no signs of abating and people in several hotspot cities, including Delhi, are struggling for treatment.
India's second wave, fuelled by lax safety protocols and massive public festivals and election rallies, has overwhelmed its hospitals. Delays in testing, diagnosis and treatment, as well as a shortage of critical care beds and crucial drugs, has resulted in a spike in deaths.
The country has so far reported more than 222,000 deaths due to the virus. But experts say India's Covid death toll is vastly under-reported as official tallies don't appear to match what people are witnessing on the ground - long lines at crematoriums, mass funeral pyres and cities running out of space to bury or cremate the dead.
Are infections actually slowing down?Are infections actually slowing down?
While India's daily caseload does appear to have fallen, it's too early to say if infections are slowing down. India's cases have risen over the past week, but at a slower rate than in previous weeks.
Given delays in testing and official record-keeping, experts typically look at weekly averages rather than daily cases for a more accurate picture. And on average, India's cases were rising this past week - but at a slower rate than the previous week. And daily cases have fallen in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra which are all hotspots of the crisis. Erratic testing, however, makes it hard to gauge the significance of these numbers.
But it's also true that daily cases have fallen, on average, in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, all hotspots. Insufficient testing has proved to be another issue.
Erratic testing, however, makes it hard to gauge the significance of these numbers. While Maharashtra's testing numbers have been consistent, Delhi's have dropped in recent weeks. Health officials said there was "cautious hope" of some respite from the second wave. But Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of the health ministry, said progress needed to be sustained by "containment measures at district and state level".
The other issue, experts say, is insufficient testing. While Uttar Pradesh, one of the worst-affected states, has recorded no drop in testing figures, it's testing far less than other states. Experts have also said other hotspots are likely to emerge in the coming weeks as the pandemic moves through the country.
It's India's most populated state, with more than 220 million people, and it is doing about 184,000 tests per million people. Compare that to Tamil Nadu, which has about 75 million people and is doing more than 300,000 tests per million of its population. Meanwhile, an oxygen shortage has shown no signs of abating and people in several hotspot cities, including Delhi, are struggling for treatment.
Health officials said there was "cautious hope" of some respite from the second wave. But Lav Agarwal, joint secretary of the health ministry, said that the "gains" were very early and needed to be sustained by "containment measures at district and state level".
Experts also say that other hotspots are likely to emerge in the coming weeks as the pandemic moves through the country.
A struggle for oxygen
Delhi's government has said it wants the army to run Covid care facilities and intensive care units.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly said that the city is not getting enough oxygen from the federal government, which allocates oxygen quotas to states.
But federal officials deny there are shortages, saying the challenge has come from transportation.
India produces thousands of tonnes of oxygen a day, but some experts say the supply crunch comes from a lack of investment in distribution networks.
Anger rises as Covid rages in Modi's constituency
Delhi running out of space to cremate Covid dead
Delhi oxygen crisis deepens as more patients die
Delhi hospitals have resorted to sending SOS messages on social media to secure supplies. For residents, hours spent in queues to top up portable canisters have become part of daily life.
Officials have also been urged to find more sites for cremations as the city's morgues and crematoriums are overwhelmed by masses of Covid deaths.
Crematoriums in the capital have been overburdened in recent weeks
Is India's vaccination drive helping?Is India's vaccination drive helping?
A sluggish vaccination campaign has compounded the crisis.A sluggish vaccination campaign has compounded the crisis.
Since January, India has administered more than 157 million vaccine doses so far - it ranks third in the world, after China and the United States. But just over 10% of India's 1.4 billion people have had one dose and only about 2% have got both doses. Since January, India has administered more than 157 million vaccine doses which ranks third in the world after China and the United States. But just over 10% of India's 1.4 billion people have had one dose and only about 2% have received both doses.
Despite being the world's biggest producer of vaccines, India is facing a shortage of supplies. And vaccination rates are down, from 3.7 million doses a day about a month ago to just 1.7 million a day. Despite being the world's biggest producer of vaccines, India is facing a shortage of supplies. And vaccination rates are down.
The chief executive of India's Serum Institute, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, has warned shortages will last for months. It's set to deliver 220 million doses over the next few months, which would still only cover 8 per cent of India's population. The chief executive of India's Serum Institute, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, has warned shortages will last for months.
The Indian government is reported to be in discussions with Pfizer, which is seeking an "expedited approval pathway" for its Covid-19 vaccine.
Protima Singh: It's very critical right nowProtima Singh: It's very critical right now