No fewer than 1,185 persons reportedly died of coronavirus complications across India, the highest single-day rise in seven months since the second wave of the pandemic hit the Asian country raising concerns over government emergency response.
Aside from the deaths rate, India also extended a record daily run of new COVID-19 infections on Friday, spurred by hundreds of positive tests at a major religious gathering with politicians pushing ahead with election rallies despite warnings from frontliners that such could worsen the outbreak.
India is battling a massive second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with new restrictions imposed in Mumbai, New Delhi and other cities. There are also growing calls for officials to speed up the country’s vaccination programme as hospitals are swamped with patients.
Reacting to the development, the country’s Health Ministry said that the 217,353 new cases reported on Friday marked the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days and took total cases to nearly 14.3 million. India’s case count was second only to the United States, which has reported more than 31 million infections.
It also added that deaths in India rose by 1,185 over the past 24 hours — the highest single-day rise in seven months — to reach a total of 174,308.
Speaking on Friday at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, while raising concerns on the data said that “the biggest fight we have is in the society … Over a period of time, people have adopted a casual approach.”
Experts have raised concerns about the spread of more contagious and deadlier variants of the disease, particularly given widespread participation in religious festivals and political rallies. A Lancet study this month estimated that India’s fatalities could double by June.
Meanwhile, several senior leaders and opposition lawmakers, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, have been holding large rallies for supporters amid elections in five regions, including West Bengal.
Visuals from the rallies have shown thousands of mask-less people crowded together and chanting slogans as they listen to speeches from politicians, in clear violation of social distancing and other COVID-19 norms.
Indian Interior Minister, Amit Shah, was scheduled to hold public meetings and roadshows in West Bengal on Friday.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people at a religious gathering in Haridwar in the north of the country tested positive for COVID-19 as tens of thousands of devout pilgrims jostled to take a holy dip in the Ganges.
The weeks-long “Kumbh Mela” festival, where ascetics bathe to wash away their sins, began earlier this month and officials have warned they expect cases to rise significantly. One local official called it a “super-spreader” event.