India’s daily COVID-19 deaths near record, calls for nationwide lockdown fix By Reuters

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© Reuters. Relatives react as health workers pull a stretcher carrying the body of a person who died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a mortuary in Ahmedabad, India on May 8, 2021. REUTERS / Amit Dave

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By Abhirup Roy and Aishwarya Nair

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Deaths from COVID-19 in India rose by more than 4,000 for a second day in a row on Sunday as calls for a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus intensified.

India’s Ministry of Health reported 4,092 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 242,362. New cases increased by 403,738, just below the record and bringing the total from the start pandemic to 22.3 million.

India has been hit hard by a second wave of COVID-19 with cases and deaths reaching record levels every two days. With an acute shortage of oxygen and beds in many hospitals and morgues and crematoriums overflowing, experts said the actual numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths could be much higher.

Many Indian states have imposed strict lockdowns over the past month to stem the spike in infections, while others have announced restrictions on public movement and closed cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.

India’s national capital, New Delhi, and the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday extended their lockdown and curfew rules until May 17.

But pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to announce a national lockdown similar to the one imposed in the first wave last year.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the umbrella body for all conventional doctors and surgeons, has called for a “comprehensive, well-planned and pre-announced” nationwide lockdown instead of “sporadic” nighttime curfews and restrictions imposed by states for a few days at a time.

“The IMA is amazed to see the extreme lethargy and inappropriate actions of the Ministry of Health in the fight against the agonizing crisis born from the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said on Saturday in a statement.

Modi has already been criticized for allowing a large rally at a religious festival and holding large election rallies in the past two months, even though cases of COVID-19 were on the rise.

India announced its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19 on Saturday, at 4,187 deaths. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will experience 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by August.

Support has poured in from around the world in the form of oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and other medical equipment for overwhelmed hospitals.

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