India’s COVID crisis ‘beyond heartbreaking’: WHO

India sees a new world record for a rise in daily cases for the fifth consecutive day as the country faced an alarming shortage of medical and hospital supplies.

A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 is consoled by another during cremation in Jammu, India, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Delhi has been cremating so many bodies of coronavirus victims that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks, as a second record surge has brought India's tattered healthcare system to its knees [Channi Anand/AP]

India has set a new global record for a rise in daily coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day, while deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by an all-time high over the last 24 hours on Monday.

Several nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, have offered support as India’s under-funded healthcare system struggles to cope with the increasing demand for medical oxygen and hospital beds.

Here are the latest updates:

Indian Americans in US Congress, tech organise aid to India

Some US lawmakers and wealthy technology executives have joined forces to boost aid to India as it grapples with a severe spike in coronavirus infections, with a focus on ensuring aid is equally distributed across the country, a Congress member said.

US Representative Ro Khanna, Democratic vice chair of the Congressional Caucus on India, told Reuters news agency that Indian-American billionaire and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, and other Indian-American tech executives at Google, IBM and Microsoft are working closely with the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India.

India to receive first batch of Russia vaccine on May 1- Interfax

India will receive a first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 on May 1, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev, said in an interview with CNN, Interfax new agency reported.

Russian pharmaceutical firm Pharmasyntez said earlier on Monday that it was ready to ship up to 1 million packs of the remdesivir antiviral drug to India by end-May to help fight a surge in COVID-19 cases there, once it has received the approval of Russia’s government.

Health workers attend to a patient at the Jumbo COVID-19 filed hospital in Mumbai, India, Monday, April 26, 2021 [Rafiq Maqbool/AP]

Oil slips below $62 as India virus cases rise

Oil prices have fallen more than 1 percent on fears that surging COVID-19 cases in India will dent fuel demand in the world’s third-biggest oil importer and as investors prepared for a planned increase in crude output from the world’s top producers in May.

Brent crude fell 72 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $65.39 a barrel by 06:53 GMT on Monday, following a 1.1-percent rise on Friday. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 67 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $61.47 a barrel, after rising 1.2 percent on Friday.

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France to supply India with COVID medical aid – presidential palace

France will supply India with “substantial medical aid” to help the country tackle a huge wave of new coronavirus infections that are overwhelming its hospitals, the Elysee presidential palace said.

The shipments to India will include oxygen generators, respirators and cryogenic containers and will start next weekend.

Turkey to offer aid to India

Turkey offered aid to India as the country suffers from a surge in coronavirus cases, diplomatic sources said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke over the phone with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and conveyed his good wishes to India, where the COVID-19 outbreak has reached peak levels.

India government ‘very sensitive’ to criticism – senior Indian journalist

The Indian government’s recent decision to censor tweets stems from being “very sensitive to criticism”, senior journalist Javed M Ansari told Al Jazeera.

“It’s very sensitive to criticism and also from the desire to try and control the narrative. As days have gone by this comment has come in increasingly criticism increasingly from citizens, and also I may say, from the courts,” he told Al Jazeera.

On Monday the Madras High Court in the southern city of Chennai said India’s Election Commission was single-handedly responsible for the second wave of the coronavirus, Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam reported from New Delhi.

A man runs past the burning funeral pyres of those who died from the coronavirus disease  during a mass cremation, at a crematorium in New Delhi, India April 26, 2021 [Adnan Abidi/REUTERS]

‘We want to provide all the support’ – British Foreign Secretary

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would provide all the support it can because the two countries were “close friends and increasingly important partners”.

“Also, we need this kind of international cooperation if we’re going to get through this pandemic. We’re not gonna be safe until we are all safe,” he added.

India sends army to help hospitals hit by COVID crisis

India ordered its armed forces to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis raging around the country.

Where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians, a government statement said.

US President Biden promises India support in call to PM Modi

US President Joe Biden promised emergency coronavirus-related assistance to India in a telephone call Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two countries said.

Biden “pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India” and said the United States “is providing a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics”, the White House said.

Situation in India ‘beyond heartbreaking’: WHO chief

The World Health Organization director-general voiced alarm Monday at India’s record-breaking wave of coronavirus cases and deaths, describing the situation as “beyond heartbreaking”.

“WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies, including thousands of oxygen concentrators, prefabricated mobile field hospitals and laboratory supplies,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva during a media briefing.


Indian coronavirus variant found in northern Italy

Authorities in northern Italy announced Monday they had identified two cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus, in a father and daughter recently returned from India.

The news follows reports of another case in the central region of Tuscany last month, and comes after the Italian government banned arrivals from the virus-hit country.

“Today in (the city of) Bassano we have the first two patients, two Indians,” announced Luca Zaia, head of the Veneto region.

Italy has reported over 3.9 million cases and more than 119,000 deaths [File: Guglielmo Mangiapane/REUTERS]

Nine test positive at Indian women’s hockey training camp

Nine members of the Indian women’s hockey team, including seven players, are isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) said.

The players and staff were tested on Saturday when they arrived at the training base in Bengaluru where they will prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in July.

SAI added that all nine individuals are asymptomatic and isolating at its National Centre of Excellence.

Switzerland puts India on COVID-19 quarantine list

Switzerland has placed India on its list of high-risk countries from which travellers must enter quarantine following the surge of cases in the subcontinent and the discovery of a first case of the new variant of COVID-19 first identified in India.

Arrivals from India must immediately go into quarantine, under the government restrictions which go into effect at 1600 GMT on Monday, the Federal Office of Public Health said on its website.

A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2021 [Amit Dave/REUTERS]

PODCAST: On the front lines of India’s second wave of COVID-19

Skyrocketing numbers of cases and deaths, new coronavirus variants and medical shortages. India’s healthcare system is overwhelmed by a devastating second wave of COVID-19, and there’s no end in sight.

Pharmaceutical firm in Russia ready to ship 1 million packs of Remdesivir

Russian pharmaceutical firm Pharmasyntez said on Monday it was ready to ship up to 1 million packs of the Remdesivir COVID-19 treatment to India by the end of May, once it receives approval from the Russian government.

The company said it was waiting for a legal basis on which it could send the shipment of the generic version it produces of the US drug Remdesivir, used to treat former US President Donald Trump, the company told Reuters news agency.

PHOTOS: Mass funeral pyres reflect India’s COVID tragedy

Flames rise from the cremation pyres of 13 COVID-19 patients who died in a fire that broke out in Vijay Vallabh COVID hospital, at Virar, near Mumbai [Rajanish Kakade/AP Photo]


Members of a family of COVID-19 victim prepare a funeral pyre as multiple pyres are seen at a crematorium in New Delhi. [Altaf Qadri/AP Photo]


A man in a protective suit digs a grave for the body of a person who died of COVID-19 in the northeastern city of Guwahati. [Anupam Nath/AP Photo]

See more photos here

Virus ‘swallowing’ people in India; crematoriums overwhelmed

Burial grounds in New Delhi are running out of space. In the central city of Bhopal, some crematoriums have increased their capacity from dozens of pyres to more than 50. Yet there are still hours-long waits.

At the city’s Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 people, even as government figures in the entire city of 1.8 million put the total number of virus deaths at just 10.

The unprecedented rush of bodies has forced the crematorium to skip individual ceremonies and exhaustive rituals that Hindus believe release the soul from the cycle of rebirth.

Indian tech hub Bengaluru to enter lockdown

The southern Indian state of Karnataka, home to technology and outsourcing hub Bengaluru, will impose a lockdown for 14 days starting from April 27 evening.

Karnataka is the latest region to enter a lockdown after similar curbs in many parts of India, which is battling a massive second wave of infections that has pressured its health system.

Bengaluru, a city of 12 million, reported more than 20,000 new infections on Sunday, its highest single-day tally so far and second only to the capital, Delhi.

Defence Sec: UK will help India in ‘hour of need’

Britain will do “everything it can to alleviate the suffering” of people in India, the UK’s defense minister said.

The UK is set to send 600 pieces of medical equipment including ventilators to India to help the country in the fight against the latest wave of infections.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the first of nine plane-loads of kit would arrive in New Delhi on Tuesday.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain would use military planes or charter other aircraft in order to get the supplies to India to help the country “in their time of need”.

The assistance package includes 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators from surplus UK stocks.

Google and Microsoft pledge support

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has announced $1.8m in funding to a non-profit organisation Give India and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help the country’s fight against the virus.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also vowed “to use its voice, resources, and technology to aid relief efforts, and support the purchase of critical oxygen concentration devices”.

France to send oxygen equipment to India

France will send oxygen respiratory equipment to India in the coming days, the office of French President Emmanuel Macron said.

Earlier on Sunday, the European Commission activated its EU Civil Protection Mechanism and said it was seeking to send oxygen and medicine to India after receiving a request from Delhi.

India’s removal of tweets critical of COVID-19 response ‘dangerous’

The removal of dozens of tweets seen to be critical of the Indian government’s handling of the virus is putting people’s health at risk and quashing dissent, activists and politicians said.

Twitter withheld some tweets after a legal request by the Indian government, a company spokeswoman told Reuters on Saturday.

“Suppression of information and criticism of government is not only dangerous for India but it is putting people around the world at risk,” said Mirza Saaib Beg, a lawyer whose tweets were among those withheld.

“Freedom of inquiry is an intrinsic part of freedom of speech and expression,” said Beg.

India’s ministry for information technology did not respond to a request for comment.

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India’s COVID-19 tragedy in pictures

India’s medical oxygen shortage has become so dire that a Sikh house of worship began offering free breathing sessions with shared tanks to COVID-19 patients waiting for a hospital bed. [Altaf Qadri/AP Photo]


A man waits to refill a medical oxygen cylinder at a charging station on the outskirts of Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh state. India’s underfunded health system is tattering as the world’s worst coronavirus surge wears out the nation, which on Monday set another global record in daily infections. [Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP Photo]


A COVID-19 patient breathes with the help of an oxygen mask and waits inside an autorickshaw to be attended to and admitted to a dedicated COVID-19 government hospital in Ahmedabad. [Ajit Solanki/AP Photo]


See more photos here.

Cricketers pull out of India’s IPL over COVID

Two Australian cricketers have become the latest players to pull out of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The IPL has attracted criticism for continuing even as the country’s healthcare system reels from more than 350,000 daily infections and almost 3,000 deaths a day from the virus.

India star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also withdrew from the IPL Twenty20 tournament on Sunday.

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Delhi to provide free vaccination to citizens above 18

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that the Delhi government will provide free COVID-19 vaccinations to people above the age of 18 years.

“Today we approved the purchase of 1.34 crore (13.4 million) vaccines,” he said in a virtual press conference.

Why does India have so many COVID cases?

For a country where COVID numbers appeared to be dropping dramatically just a few weeks ago, what has gone so wrong in India?

Read more here

Thailand suspends travel from India

Thailand has suspended issuing travel documents from India over concerns of imported coronavirus cases, as more venues were closed in Bangkok.

The Thai embassy in New Delhi said in a statement that certificates of entry for non-Thai nationals travelling from India will be suspended until further notice.

US to ramp up support for virus-hit India

The US will “immediately” make supplies of vaccine-production material, as well as therapeutics, tests, ventilators and protective equipment available to India.

“The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India,” a White House statement said.

Western nations including Britain, France, Canada and Germany have also pledged help.

India reports record 352,991 new cases

With 352,991 new cases, India sees a new world record for a rise in daily coronavirus cases. India’s total caseload has now crossed 17 million, according to health ministry data – behind only the US.

Deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by an all-time high, with a record 2,812 fatalities reported over the last 24 hours, to reach a total of 195,123.

The death toll could be a huge undercount, as suspected cases are not included, and many COVID-19 deaths are being attributed to underlying conditions.

Bangladesh shuts land border with India

Bangladesh has announced it is closing its land border with India in response to the record-breaking infection rates and death toll in the neighbouring country.

The ban, which excludes transportation of goods, will remain effective for 14 days from Monday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters in Dhaka.

Bangladeshi citizens stranded in India will be allowed to return home through three specific border points, provided they produce a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their entry, a Foreign Ministry announcement said.

Air travel between the two countries has remained suspended since Bangladesh halted international passenger flights on April 14 as part of a nationwide lockdown.

Netherlands to ban flights from India

The Netherlands will also prohibit passenger flights from India from Monday at 6pm (16:00 GMT) until May 1 due to fears over a new variant of COVID-19, the ministry of transport said.

The ban, announced on Sunday, does not include cargo flights or planes carrying medical personnel.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies