By David Asta Alares
New Delhi, Apr 19 (EFE).- India, the world’s second worst affected country by the coronavirus pandemic, continues to register record daily caseloads and on Monday crossed the grim milestone of 15 million infections, on a day when capital New Delhi announced a week-long lockdown fearing a collapse of the healthcare system.
The South Asian country registered a new daily record with 273,810 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, and many states have warned that their health services were facing a critical situation.
“If we don’t impose a lockdown now, there will be a bigger tragedy. We cannot push Delhi into that situation where patients are lying in corridors, people are dying on roads,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a televised address.
The capital’s authorities have decided to confine the city’s 20 million residents from Monday night until Apr. 26, after imposing similar restrictions over the weekend following a massive surge in coronavirus cases.
Essential business will be allowed to remain open and a number of professions have also been exempted from restrictions, while weddings will also be permitted with a guest limit of 50.
The massive humanitarian crisis triggered by last year’s nationwide lockdown, when millions of migrant workers were trapped in Indian cities without money or ways to return to their hometowns, has led to similar measures being delayed during the second wave of the pandemic.
However, Kejriwal highlighted that New Delhi had registered 23,500 cases in the last 24 hours, after touching the 25,000 mark during the past week.
The city on Monday had only 113 intensive care unit (ICU) beds free out of a total 4,220, although the government is set to establish more facilities over the next few days.
Indian social networks have been flooded with citizens’ messages pleading for hospital beds for a relative or friend, or medicines such as antiviral drug Remdesivir, as shortages have plagued the system.
Delhi authorities have also cited lack of oxygen in the city’s hospital as a problem, which has also affected other Indian states and led to the government restricting the use of industrial oxygen and diverting the gas for medical use.
India has registered 178,769 coronavirus deaths so far, with a daily record of 1,619 people being killed by the disease within the past 24 hours.
The virus has spread at a dizzying speed among the over 1.35 billion Indians over the last few days , with the daily caseload growing from around 170,000 on Apr. 12 to over 200,000 since Thursday.
The second wave has severely affected many states like the western Maharashtra and northwestern Rajasthan, with authorities imposing different restriction to try and prevent the virus from spreading without completely paralyzing the economy.
However, the reappearance of curfews and lockdowns is in sharp contrast to the massive crowds witnessed in the country during the ongoing regional elections in five states and the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest and one of the oldest religious gatherings.
In the eastern state of Bengal, where three rounds of voting are yet to take place, crowded political rallies with little or no social distancing have led to a major controversy, and some leaders announced over the weekend that they were canceling their remaining electoral programs or reducing their size.
The health crisis also led to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceling his India visit – scheduled for next week – on Friday, citing the current coronavirus situation in the country. EFE