India coronavirus death toll passes 300,000

A worker tries to clear water after heavy rains flooded the premises of a Covid-19 hospital being set up at Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India
A worker tries to clear water after heavy rains flooded the premises of a Covid-19 hospital being set up at Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India (AP)
12:22pm, Mon 24 May 2021
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India has crossed another grim milestone with the country’s coronavirus death toll passing 300,000.

The figure, as recorded by India’s Health Ministry, comes as slowed vaccine deliveries have marred the country’s fight against the pandemic, forcing many to miss their shots, and a rare but fatal fungal infection affecting Covid-19 patients has worried doctors.

India’s death toll is the third-highest reported in the world, accounting for 8.6% of the nearly 3.5 million coronavirus fatalities globally, though the true numbers are thought to be significantly greater.

The Health Ministry on Monday reported 4,454 new deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 303,720.

A health worker screens travellers to test for Covid-19 at a train station in Mumbai, India (AP)

It also reported 222,315 new infections, which raised the overall total to nearly 27 million since the pandemic began.

Both are almost certainly undercounts.

From the remote Himalayan villages in the north, through the vast humid central plains and to the sandy beaches in the south, the pandemic has swamped India’s underfunded healthcare system after spreading fast across the country.

In the capital New Delhi, residents have died at home with no oxygen as hospitals exhausted limited supplies.

In Mumbai, Covid-19 patients have died in crowded hospital corridors.

In rural villages, fever and breathlessness took people before they were even tested for coronavirus.

While the big cities have seen signs of improvement in recent days, the virus is not finished with India by any means.

It appears to have already taken a ghastly toll in the country’s vast rural areas, where a majority of the people live and where healthcare is limited.

People line up to get tested for Covid-19 in Jammu, India (AP)

In recent weeks, hundreds of bodies have washed up on the banks of the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh state.

Many others have been found buried in shallow graves along its sandy banks.

It has prompted concerns that they are the remains of Covid-19 victims.

India’s vaccination drive has also slowed recently, and many states say they do not have enough vaccines to administer.

The world’s largest vaccine-producing nation has fully vaccinated just over 41.6 million people, or only 3.8% of its nearly 1.4 billion people.

On Monday, the federal government enabled walk-in registration at government-run vaccination centres for those aged between 18 and 44 to “minimise vaccine wastage”.

Global Covid-19 cases and deaths (PA Graphics)

The first known Covid-19 death in India happened on March 12 2020 in southern Karnataka state.

It took seven months to reach the first 100,000 dead.

The toll hit 200,000 deaths in late April.

The next 100,000 deaths were recorded in just 27 days after new infections tore through dense cities and rural areas alike and overwhelmed healthcare systems on the brink of collapse.

Average daily deaths and cases have slightly decreased in the past few weeks and the government on Sunday said it is conducting the highest number of Covid-19 tests, with more than 2.1 million samples tested in the previous 24 hours.

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