India’s daily COVID count of new cases has, for the first time, surpassed the 400,000 mark. The new infections count for the previous 24-hour period was a record 401,993 cases, India’s health ministry said Saturday. Public health officials believe the actual count may be at least five times higher.
“This virus has shown us that if left to its own devices, it will explode in society,” top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said in an interview with Indian Express newspaper. “If you don’t respect its ability to cause serious damage, you are going to get into trouble.”
Fauci recommended a lockdown for India. “Literally, lock down so that you wind up having less spread. No one likes to lock down the country … But if you do it just for a few weeks, you could have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak.”
Eighteen people were killed early Saturday when a fire erupted in a COVID-19 ward at a hospital in western India.
Authorities say 30 patients were rescued from the ground floor fire at the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, in Gujarat state.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, officials said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter that he was “Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire” at the hospital. “Condolences to the bereaved families,” he added.
Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Bharuch. Condolences to the bereaved families.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 1, 2021
India expanded its vaccine eligibility Saturday to anyone 18 and older, but many locations are saying that they just do not have any vaccines.
Only 2% of India’s 1.3 billion people have been vaccinated.
In contrast, the White House says 100 million Americans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, nearly double the 55 million vaccinated a month ago.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients proclaimed the number a “major milestone” at a briefing Friday.
Every American older than 16 is now eligible for the vaccine, and President Joe Biden has promised there will be enough vaccine for every U.S. adult by the end of May.
Aid from the U.S. and other countries arrived in India Friday. U.S. assistance includes oxygen supplies, rapid diagnostic tests and vaccine-manufacturing materials.
The second wave of the coronavirus has overwhelmed India’s health care system, with hospitals at full capacity and an acute shortage of oxygen aggravating an already desperate situation. Many parks and parking lots have been converted into makeshift crematories that are working day and night.
Gayle Smith, U.S. State Department coordinator for global COVID-19 response, said during a Friday briefing that the crisis in India “has not peaked yet.”
She added that the pandemic in the country was “going to need urgent and persistent attention for some time.”
Smith said most of the requests India has made to the U.S. for oxygen, personal protective equipment, and vaccine production materials “have been met,” and she called the U.S. response “pretty prompt.”
India has 19,164,969 coronavirus infections, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said Saturday. The U.S. is the only place that has more infections than India with more than 32 million cases, according to Hopkins. There are more than 151 million global infections.
In other virus developments, French President Emmanuel Macron announced Friday that all French adults will be eligible to be vaccinated starting June 15. Currently, only those with chronic illnesses are eligible.