Millions vote in final phase of marathon polls in West Bengal despite record spike in COVID infections and deaths.
India has set another global record in new COVID-19 cases and deaths, with another 379,257 people infected and 3,645 deaths, as the country gears up to open its vaccination rollout to all adults on Saturday.
Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it is unclear by how much.
India now has reported more than 18.3 million cases, behind only the US, with the surge rooted in so-called “super-spreader” events that were allowed to happen in the months after India thought it had the pandemic under control.
Fuelling the catastrophe was a series of crowded events, like mass rallies by politicians such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, religious holidays and pilgrimages on the Ganges river.
As governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers, including Modi, touted victory over the virus, people relaxed their vigilance and stopped wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
Now India is enduring its darkest chapter yet, with mass funeral pyres, burials and a collapse of the healthcare system compounded by shortages of oxygen, ventilators and hospital beds.
Patients are suffocating, even dying, for lack of oxygen, with fires at overwhelmed crematoriums lighting up the night skies in several cities.