India has reported 186,364 new coronavirus infections during the previous 24 hours, its lowest daily rise since April 14, as total cases in the South Asia region surpass 30 million, according to a Reuters news agency tally of official data.
In India, COVID-related deaths rose by 3,660 in a day, with the country’s tally of infections now standing at 27.56 million and the death toll at 318,895, health ministry data showed on Friday.
India’s official tally of daily coronavirus infections has been falling in the past few days, offering hope that its second wave is ebbing. But there are serious concerns that many new infections are not being reported, largely due to a dearth of testing in the countryside.
The surge in South Asia is led by India which is struggling with a ferocious second COVID-19 wave and a severe shortage of vaccines.
The world’s second-most populous country this month recorded its highest COVID-19 death toll since the pandemic began last year, accounting for just over a third of the overall total.
The South Asia region – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka – accounts for 18 percent of global cases and almost 10 percent of deaths.
But there is ongoing suspicion that official tallies of infections and deaths are not reflecting the true extent of the problem.
This month, India opened its coronavirus vaccination campaign to everyone aged 18 or older. However, it has not been able to meet vaccine demand despite being one of the biggest vaccine producers in the world.
India has been inoculating its people with the AstraZeneca vaccine produced locally at the Serum Institute of India (SII), Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech and has begun rolling out Russia’s Sputnik V.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced mounting criticism for the failure to secure vaccines as only about 3 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population has been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate among the 10 countries with the most cases.
To meet domestic demand, India temporarily halted vaccine exports in March after donating or selling more than 66 million doses. The halt has left countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and many in Africa scrambling for alternate supplies.
However, India is still facing a vaccine shortage and several of its state governments, and even cities such as Mumbai, have launched global tenders or sought expressions of interest from firms such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson for urgent supplies.
Since India is unlikely to resume major exports of COVID-19 vaccines until October, other South Asian countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh are making diplomatic efforts to secure vaccines to prop up their faltering inoculation drives as their stocks run out.
India’s western neighbour Pakistan, with purchases and donations from China and allocations from the World Health Organization and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, has now secured more than 18 million doses.
On Wednesday, Pakistan opened registration for its vaccination campaign for everyone aged 19 or older.
At least 219.17 million vaccine doses have been administered in South Asia by Friday, according to figures from Our World in Data.