The total number of confirmed cases in the country has now crossed 15.6 million, the second highest behind the United States, while total deaths reached 182,553.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, on Tuesday said the second wave of the virus had hit India like a storm. He appealed to people to take necessary precautions and only travel if necessary.
Large parts of the country are now under lockdown and states have moved to impose restrictions in a bid to contain the surging case count.
The national capital, Delhi, is under a week-long lockdown which was imposed after the government said that the health system was under extreme pressure. The city recorded over 28,000 new cases and 277 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to a health bulletin on Tuesday.
Epidemiologists and doctors have warned that the second surge in India is being driven by variants of the virus. A new variant, called the double mutant, is thought to be behind the fresh wave of cases.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Wednesday said Covaxin, a homegrown vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, “neutralises multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 and effectively works against the double mutant strain as well”.
Several states in India are facing a shortage of medical oxygen and hospital beds. Medical personnel are under immense pressure as the country deals with its largest surge of the pandemic so far.
Some hospitals in Delhi received supply of oxygen hours after they flagged the shortage. Hospitals on Tuesday had said they were only left with a few more hours of oxygen supply.
Delhi government-run GTB Hospital and private hospital Sir Ganga Ram received medical oxygen late at night on Tuesday, but hospitals have warned that oxygen demand is very high as cases continue to rise.
India has decided to expand its vaccination drive and fund capacity boost at vaccine manufacturers Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, according to Reuters. This comes as the central government is struggling to meet demand from many states for the vaccine.
Bharat Biotech on Tuesday announced expansion of its manufacturing capacity and said it will produce as many as 700 million doses annually.
India has administered over 130 million Covid-19 vaccine doses since the drive began in mid-January. It will start vaccinating all adults over the age of 18 starting from 1 May, the government announced on Monday.
As cases soared, politicians faced growing criticism for taking part in massive election rallies in five states with tens of thousands of supporters who did not wear masks or follow social distancing rules.