Dr Khan examines what we know so far about the new variant.
India has reported a record-high 126,789 new COVID-19 cases, health ministry data showed on Thursday, with much of the country struggling to contain a second surge in coronavirus infections.
Deaths rose by 685, the highest since November, taking the tally to 166,862, the data showed as India’s overall caseload reached 12.9 million, the third-highest globally, behind the United States and Brazil.
The new cases reported by the health ministry overtook Wednesday’s 115,736 infections, with dozens of cities and towns imposing night curfews to try to contain infections.
The western state of Maharashtra, the worst-hit in the country, accounted for nearly 47 percent of new infections.
The federal government has refused to impose a second nationwide lockdown, after the first last year had a steep economic effect but it has asked states to decide on imposing local restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.
India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 80,000 cases per day.
India’s yet another day of grim figures came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Vaccination is among the few ways we have, to defeat the virus. If you are eligible for the vaccine, get your shot soon,” Modi tweeted. He received his first vaccine shot on March 1.
India started its vaccination drive in January. So far, more than 90 million health workers and those more than 45 years of age have received at least one shot.
Only 11 million have received both doses as India tries to build immunity to protect its more than 1.3 billion people.
Several Indian states are struggling to contain a second surge in infections, complaining of vaccine shortages and demanding inoculations be expanded to younger people.
Vaccine centres in several states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra, have been shutting early and turning people away as supplies run out.
Odisha state said it had closed half its vaccination sites.
Right now we have 5.34 lakhs doses. We administer 2.5-lakh vaccines daily. So, our stock will last for 2 more days. We've written to Centre to send us a minimum of 25-lakh vaccines for 10 days so that we can vaccinate properly. Vaccination is going on well here: Odisha Health Min pic.twitter.com/5TN5wY3qO3
— ANI (@ANI) April 8, 2021
“Due to a shortage of vaccines, we are suspending vaccination at government and private hospitals until supplies become available,” said municipal authorities in the city of Panvel near India’s financial capital Mumbai in Maharashtra.
Vaccination centres were also shut in Satara district in the state since Wednesday, said Vinay Gowda, a senior government official.
#OnCNBCTV18 | 'Stock of vaccines exhausted in Mumbai vaccination centre. Sent back 200 patients yesterday at a vaccination centre in Mumbai,' Ashutosh Raghuvanshi of Fortis Healthcare tells us. pic.twitter.com/v2xSKenT7s
— CNBC-TV18 (@CNBCTV18Live) April 8, 2021
The federal government denied there was any shortage for the prioritised group of recipients – those aged above 45 years and front-line workers – accusing states of spreading panic.
Opposition parties have blamed Modi’s government for exporting tens of millions of vaccine doses while itself covering only a fraction of the country’s population. India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker.
“Why was there no strategy or planning put into the logistics of the vaccine programme?” the main opposition Congress party said on Twitter. “Why is there both extremely high wastage and an acute shortage of vaccines?”
The Serum Institute of India, which has supplied about 90 percent of the 88 million vaccine doses administered in the country, has sought a federal grant of 30 billion rupees ($400m) to increase its capacity to make the AstraZeneca shot.
India is also using a homegrown vaccine developed by a government institute and Bharat Biotech, which is struggling to boost its output.