India COVID cases hold close to record highs as calls widen for national lockdown

Indian coronavirus infections and deaths held close to record daily highs on Monday, increasing calls for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lock down the world’s second-most populous country.

The 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths reported by the health ministry were off a little from recent peaks, taking India’s tally to 22.66 million with 246,116 deaths as hospitals run out of oxygen and beds and morgues and crematoria overflow.

(Graphic on global cases and deaths)

Experts have said India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported.

Sunday’s 1.47 million tests for COVID-19 were this month’s lowest yet, data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research showed. The figure compared with a daily average of 1.7 million for the first eight days of May.

The number of positive results from the tests was not immediately clear, however.

Many states have imposed strict lockdowns over the last month while others have placed curbs on movement and shut cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.

But pressure is mounting on Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown as he did during the first wave of infections last year.

He is battling criticism for allowing huge gatherings at a religious festival and holding large election rallies during the past two months even as cases surged.

“A failure of governance of epic and historic proportions,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, said on Twitter.

Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the main opposition Congress party, blamed the government for abdicating its responsibility by leaving vaccinations to states, Reuters partner ANI said on Twitter.

Delhi’s health minister said the city was running out of vaccines, with just three to four days of supplies remaining of AstraZeneca (AZN.L), made by the Serum Institute of India and branded Covishield, the NDTV news channel reported.

By Monday, the world’s largest vaccine-producing nation had fully vaccinated just over 34.8 million, or about 2.5%, of a population of about 1.35 billion, government data shows.

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