India’s daily new coronavirus cases surged to another record high with over 386,400 illnesses reported on Friday. The Health Ministry also reported nearly 3,500 deaths in the last 24 hours, but officials have repeatedly warned that the counts are likely far higher. The grim toll comes as the country was poised to expand vaccine eligibility to all adults over 18 on Saturday, but now several regions are reporting that supply has run out and as a result some centers have been shuttered.
Vaccination sites in Mumbai will close for three days due to the shortage, Reuters reported, with one official warning people Friday not to show up on Saturday for scheduled appointments.
“Let us not create a law and order problem tomorrow,” Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, according to Reuters.
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Other regions complained that they hadn’t heard from suppliers about when to expect vaccines to arrive. The country is woefully behind in its inoculation efforts, with about 9% of its 1.4 billion population vaccinated.
And as foreign aid, including raw materials for vaccine production, begins to arrive in the state, there’s increasing anger and criticism toward Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who months earlier had declared victory against the pandemic. The tension spilled over onto social media when Facebook temporarily blocked posts using a hashtag calling for Modi to resign, and later said that it had been done “by mistake.” The Indian government also asked Facebook and Twitter to remove posts critical of its response to the pandemic.
Amidst the skyrocketing surge, the country has allowed for mass religious gatherings and political rallies, all while abandoning public health measures meant to stop the spread.
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On Friday, an online appeal signed by over 350 scientists called for the government to release data regarding sequencing of variants, testing rates and vaccine data. Experts say the lack of transparency is hampering recovery efforts. It is believed that new variants are behind the current wave in infections, but they have not yet been identified.
The wave also has far-reaching impacts on countries that were reliant on COVAX vaccine supply, as India was expected to produce millions of AstraZeneca doses but has since banned exports. Bangladesh is currently under a lockdown for the next week, and has turned to China and Russia for vaccines. Nepal has also entered a lockdown, and is in negotiations with Russia for vaccine supply after months of waiting for prepaid doses from India.
And in Africa, officials implored residents to see India’s lax requirements on gatherings and other measures as an example of what can happen to a fragile health system.
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“What is happening in India cannot be ignored by our continent,” John Nkengasong, director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, according to the Associated Press. “We do not have enough health care workers, we do not have enough oxygen.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.