A new single-day record of COVID-19 cases has pushed India into second place behind the United States for the world’s most confirmed coronavirus infections.
The South Asian nation’s 168,912 new COVID-19 cases posted on Monday gives India 13,527,717 total cases, compared to Brazil’s 13,517,808 total cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The new surge coincides with an acute shortage of vaccines in some Indian states, along with the annual Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, at the Ganges River, where millions of Hindu devotees bathe to seek absolution, raising fears it could evolve into a superspreader event.
India is in fourth place in total coronavirus fatalities with 170,179, including 904 deaths posted on Monday. The United States leads in that category with 562,521, followed by Brazil with 354,617 deaths and Mexico with 209,702.
Reuters is reporting that India has approved the use of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
In the United States, the Biden administration is urging the midwestern state of Michigan to impose a mandatory lockdown to deal with a new surge of coronavirus infections sweeping the state.
Michigan ‘s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has pleaded with the administration to provide extra doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the state in an effort to blunt the surge, which has the highest rate of new infections in the nation. But Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday “the answer is not necessarily to give vaccine” because of the length of time it takes for one to become effective.
“The answer is really to close things down, to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact,” Walensky said. The administration says it will send extra supplies of COVID-19 antibody treatments and tests to Michigan, but says it will stick with its plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to all states based on population.
Governor Whitmer came under fire last year from conservatives for implementing strict coronavirus restrictions at the start of the pandemic, including armed groups entering the state capitol building in Lansing during a heated protest.
The ongoing surge of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and India comes as the World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday blamed “confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures and their application” for seven consecutive weeks of rising COVID-19 infections and four consecutive weeks of increasing numbers of deaths, after starting the year with six weeks of declining numbers.
During a briefing Monday from WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, Tedros said while vaccines are a vital and powerful tool in fighting the pandemic, the standard mitigation efforts of social distancing, hygiene, masks and continued testing and tracking continue to be effective means of saving lives.
In a relatively positive development, Britain announced that it is ahead of schedule of offering a first shot of COVID-19 vaccine to its older citizens on Monday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said vaccinating all people 50 years old and older by the self-imposed deadline of April 15 means “more than 32 million people have been given the precious protection vaccines provide against COVID-19.”
The prime minister’s triumphant statement capped the end of a three-month strict lockdown imposed across Britain in response to a wave of infections triggered by a more transmissible strain of the virus, which was discovered late last year in the southeastern county of Kent.
Thousands of gyms, hair salons, retail shops and zoos reopened their doors across England, along with bars and restaurants, which are limited to just outdoor service. Similar restrictions remain in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have their own timetables for reopening.