India crosses 20m corona cases

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Shafaqna Pakistan: India’s total COVID-19 caseload crossed 20 million and oxygen shortages exacerbated a devastating second wave on Monday, as the EU proposed new rules that could allow travellers who are fully vaccinated to enter the bloc.

Cases have soared by around eight million since the end of March, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi under growing pressure to take decisive action to reverse the surge. As many as 318,066 new cases were reported in India on Monday and 2,721 deaths, with total cases reaching 20,237,781.

Scores died over the weekend in hospitals hit by shortages that have forced clinics in the capital New Delhi to send urgent appeals for help on social media. “Oxygen is a basic requirement of a hospital and a consistent supply has not been assured. We are constantly firefighting,” the head of the Madhukar Rainbow Children´s Hospital Dr Dinesh was quoted as saying by international media.

The crisis had already raised questions about whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) should go ahead, though cricket authorities, who stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if it is halted, have insisted it is helping to raise spirits. But on Monday, the league was forced into its first coronavirus postponement this season, after two players tested positive despite the tournament´s bio-secure “bubble”.

The match — between the Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore — was called off just hours before its start in Ahmedabad after Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier became infected.

Amid severe shortages, India´s federal and state authorities have been scrambling to get extra oxygen to hospitals, including by sourcing it from the steel industry and sending special “Oxygen Express” trains. International aid has also poured into the country.

Germany and France this weekend sent medical equipment including oxygen-generating plants. “Out there the hospitals are full. People are sometimes dying in front of the hospitals. They have no more oxygen,” German ambassador Walter J Lindner said.

Stung by defeat in a key state-level election and a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to rectify the oxygen situation in Delhi by midnight (1830 GMT), embattled Prime Minister Modi held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen Monday.

The pair discussed “the prevailing Covid-19 situation in India and the EU”, according to a statement from Modi´s office, with the Indian leader thanking the bloc for “mobilizing quick support for India´s fight against the second wave”.

The grim situation in India stands in stark contrast to gradual reopenings in Europe and other wealthier parts of the world, where rapid vaccination programmes buoyed by easy access to jabs have helped keep new cases down.

The News

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