India reported more than 300,000 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday for the sixth day in a row as the country battles a wave of illnesses that overwhelmed its health care system.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, called the situation in India “heartbreaking”. He warned that many countries “are still experiencing intense transmission”, with more new cases worldwide last week than in the first five months of the pandemic.
The rise in the number of new cases in India has helped push global infection rates to record highs. The country announced 323,144 new infections in the previous 24 hours, a 10% drop from the previous day, but experts warned that could be more due to a drop in testing than a sign that the new wave fades.
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An additional 2,771 people have died, a number also seen as an undercount amid reports that many likely deaths from covid-19 are officially attributed to underlying causes or go unreported.
Medical facilities in India, especially in major cities, have been strained by the influx of patients as the number of cases has skyrocketed in recent weeks under pressure from more virulent new variants and relaxed restrictions. Hospitals in some cities have stopped admitting patients amid a desperate rush for supplemental oxygen, ventilators and medication. In some hospitals, patients have died after lack of supplemental oxygen.
This led to growing anger against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government allowed crowded election rallies and religious festivals, and bragged about having approached the end of the pandemic weeks before the start of the last wave. Many are also frustrated by delays in the immunization program in a country that is the world’s largest producer of vaccines.
The Indian government has tried to quell criticism during the new outbreak, including asking Twitter to delete tweets criticizing the government’s handling of the crisis.
Britain’s first aid shipment arrived in the country on Tuesday, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, with more on the way. France, among other countries, has also announced its intention to send medical supplies.
Tedros said 2,600 WHO staff had been sent to help India. He added that the WHO has sent “critical equipment and supplies, including thousands of oxygen concentrators, prefabricated mobile field hospitals and laboratory supplies.”
The Indian Armed Forces announced Monday that they will also intervene, releasing additional oxygen from reserves and recalling retired medical staff to help ailing hospitals under the load of new patients.
RESISTANCE IN AFRICA
Separately, some Africans are reluctant to be vaccinated against covid-19 amid concerns about their safety, alarming public health officials as some countries begin to destroy thousands of expired doses before use.
Malawi and South Sudan have announced in recent days that they will be slashing some of their doses, a worrying development on a continent where health officials have been outspoken about the need for equity in vaccines as Rich countries around the world hold most of the vaccines.
Africa, of which 1.3 billion people represent 16% of the world’s population, has received less than 2% of the doses of covid-19 vaccine administered worldwide, according to the WHO.
Africa seeks to vaccinate up to 60% of its population by the end of 2022.
Achieving this goal will require around 1.5 billion doses of vaccine for Africa if the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine continues to be widely used. But safety concerns with this vaccine, often the main injection available under the donor-backed COVAX program to ensure access for developing countries, have worried some Africans.
Suspicions about the vaccines have spread widely on social media, in part due to a general lack of trust in authorities. The Ugandan Minister of Health had to rebut claims that she faked being shot, even posting a video of herself receiving the shot on Twitter, with the warning: “Please stop spreading fake new!”
WHO and the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged African governments to continue rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying its benefits outweigh any risks after European countries limited its use due to concerns about rare blood clots in a small number of recipients.
The Africa CDC said in a statement last week that it had received advice from the Serum Institute of India recommending a “shelf life extension” of three months to the April 13 expiration date of at least one million AstraZeneca images delivered to Africa.
African countries “have no choice,” Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said, urging Malawi to use up all of its injections after authorities in the southern African nation say they will burn 16,000 doses from AstraZeneca which expired earlier in April.
It is not known whether Malawi will follow this advice.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s health regulator has raised safety concerns while rejecting requests from several states to import nearly 30 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which has drawn criticism from the government. Russian.
The five-person board of the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency unanimously ruled on Monday evening that consistent and reliable data required was lacking for approval of applications from 10 states, according to a statement. Four other states and two cities have also applied for permission to import the vaccine.
The agency, known as Anvisa, said there were flaws in all clinical studies of vaccine development, as well as missing or insufficient data.
The Russian fund overseeing the marketing of the vaccine around the world denied this claim.
Anvisa’s decision does not affect a separate request by Brazilian company Uniao Quimica for an emergency use authorization for locally produced Sputnik V, according to an emailed statement from Anvisa’s press office.
Yet it dealt a blow to Russia’s efforts to promote global adoption of the vaccine, whose exports helped it regain diplomatic foothold in countries where relations had languished.
“We need more information on what this is missing [of data] means, because there is already more than enough data, ”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a daily press briefing.
“Contacts [with Brazil] continue to. If some data is missing, it will be provided, ”he said.
Information for this article was provided by Miriam Berger, Jennifer Hassan, and Paul Schemm of the Washington Post; and by Rodney Muhumuza, Gregory Gondwe, Jonathan Paye-Layleh, Cara Anna and David Biller of the Associated Press.