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Gravediggers overwork after Indian records 3,645 COVID-19 deaths in 24-hours

By News Desk

Tired and exhausted, gravediggers across India have raised concerns over an increase in patronage of their services by families who lost loved ones to coronavirus infections, adding that the rise in demand for their services has been astronomical in recent times.

They indicated that they have been working around the clock to bury victims and hundreds more were cremated in makeshift pyres in parks and parking lots after the country’s total COVID-19 cases surpassed 18 million.

The Health Ministry on Thursday said that the country recorded 379,257 new infections and 3,645 new deaths, the highest number of fatalities in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

The world’s second-most populous nation has been in deep crisis, with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed after rising positive cases of deadly respiratory disease across the country.

Reacting to the development, a Mumbai gravedigger, Sayyed Kamruddin, 52, said that he and his colleagues were working non-stop to bury victims.

“I’m not scared of COVID, I’ve worked with courage. It’s all about courage, not about fear,” he said. “This is our only job. Getting the body, removing it from the ambulance, and then burying it.”

Each day, thousands of Indians search frantically for hospital beds and life-saving oxygen for sick relatives, using social media apps and personal contacts. Hospital beds that become available, especially in intensive care units (ICUs), are snapped up in minutes.

The Principal Scientific Adviser to the government, K. VijayRaghavan, while reacting to the recorded highest death tally in a day said that the ferocity of the second wave took everyone by surprise.

“While we were all aware of second waves in other countries, we had vaccines at hand, and no indications from modelling exercises suggested the scale of the surge,” he said.

India’s military has begun moving key supplies, such as oxygen, across the nation and would open its healthcare facilities to civilians.

Also, hotels and railway coaches have been converted into critical care facilities to make up for the shortage of hospital beds.

Experts argued that India’s best hope was to vaccinate its vast population and on Wednesday it opened registration for all above the age of 18 to receive shots from Saturday. Although it is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, India does not have the stocks for the estimated 800 million now eligible.

Many who tried to sign up for vaccination said they failed, complaining on social media of being unable to get a slot or even to simply get on the website, as it repeatedly crashed.

“Statistics indicate that far from crashing or performing slowly, the system is performing without any glitches,” the government said on Wednesday.

More than 8 million people had registered, it said, but it was not immediately clear how many had got slots.

A local official in Mumbai said the city had paused its vaccination drive for three days as supplies were running short, while officials said that the worst-hit state of Maharashtra was likely to extend strict coronavirus curbs by another two weeks.

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