UAE extends ban on travellers from COVID-hit India

India’s tally surges past 20 million, boosted by 357,229 new cases over last 24 hours, while deaths rise by 3,449 for a total of 222,408.

A COVID-19 patient sits connected to oxygen supply inside the emergency ward of a hospital in New Delhi [Rebecca Conway/Getty Images]

India on Tuesday confirmed more than 20 million coronavirus infections in the official total, though the figure is believed to be a vast undercount.

A vicious surge in COVID-19 cases has left the country’s healthcare system at breaking point, with hospitals running out of oxygen and nearly all hospital beds occupied.

The country has witnessed scenes of people dying outside overwhelmed hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky.

This live blog is now closed. These were Tuesday’s updates:

Rituals for dead change as COVID-19 rages

Tradition in India holds that the body of a dead person is to be cremated or buried as quickly as possible – within 24 hours for Hindus, Jains and Muslims, and within three days for Sikhs.

Hundreds of families want their loved ones’ bodies cared for as quickly as possible, but there is a shortage of people who can do the funerals and last rites.

This has led to a situation where people are paying bribes in order to get space or a furnace for cremation.

There are also reports of physical fights, and intimidation.

Funeral pyres overflow to parks, other open spaces

The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant of the coronavirus has left sufferers dying in ambulances and car parks.

To try and cope with the large number of deaths, rows of funeral pyres were set up in parks and other open spaces to cremate the overflow of corpses.

Makeshift crematoriums are also being constructed in the parking lots of hospitals, with young women sometimes being the only ones available to light the funerary pyre – something that was previously not permissible.

Ambulance and municipal staff carry the body of a person who died due to the coronavirus before cremation at Sahudangi Crematorium [File: Diptendu Dutta/AFP]

Grief, anger among Indian diaspora in US as COVID crisis worsens

As the pandemic continues to ravage India with an exponential rise in the number of cases, the 4.2 million members of the Indian diaspora in the US are stricken with panic, pain and grief.

Read more here.

Desperate for oxygen, Indian hospitals go to court

A court in India’s capital New Delhi has become the last hope for many hospitals struggling to get oxygen as supplies run dangerously short while government officials bicker over who is responsible.

A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals invoking India’s constitutional right to protection of life. Local and federal officials are attending.

The court’s intervention has saved lives, lawyers say.

UAE extends suspension of entry for travellers from India

The United Arab Emirates has extended a ban on entry from travellers coming from India, the foreign ministry in Abu Dhabi said in a statement on its website, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The statement did not specify a date to lift the suspension, which was first announced on April 22.

“Flights between the two countries will continue to allow the transport of passengers from the UAE to India,” it said.

Rickshaw ‘ambulance’ offers free oxygen to COVID patients

Mohammad Javed Khan, a 34-year-old driver in the central Indian city of Bhopal, converted his three-wheeled vehicle into a small ambulance.

He fitted it out with an oxygen cylinder, an oximeter to measure oxygen levels in the blood, and other medical supplies to help COVID patients amid a huge oxygen crisis.

Read more here.

UK-India trade deal includes vaccine investment

Britain has announced 1bn pounds ($1.4bn) of new trade and investment with India, including a deal with the Serum Institute of India to aid in the development of vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.

The package includes a 240 million-pound investment in the UK by the Serum Institute, the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, that will support clinical trials, research and possibly vaccine production, the British government said in a statement. The Serum Institute, in collaboration with Codagenix, has started early-stage trials of a one-dose nasal vaccine against COVID-19.

“Like every aspect of the UK-India relationship, the economic links between our countries make our people stronger and safer,’’ Prime Ministers Boris Johnson said in a statement. “Each and every one of the more than 6,500 jobs we have announced today will help families and communities build back from coronavirus and boost the British and Indian economies.’’

‘Horrible’ weeks ahead for India as COVID catastrophe worsens

India has witnessed scenes of people dying outside overwhelmed hospitals and funeral pyres lighting up the night sky.

Relatives react to heat emitting from the multiple funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims at a crematorium in the outskirts of New Delhi. [Amit Sharma/AP Photo]

For more images, click here.

Indian Premier League cricket suspended

The Indian Premier League was suspended indefinitely after players or staff at three clubs tested positive for COVID-19.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India issued a statement saying local authorities and tournament officials took the decision unanimously “to postpone IPL 2021 season, with immediate effect”.

“The BCCI does not want to compromise on the safety of the players, support staff and the other participants involved in organizing the IPL,” the BCCI said.

“These are difficult times, especially in India. While we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, however, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times.”

Global implications of India’s second wave

The Indian variant, which is suspected to be highly infectious, could snowball into a global problem – according to the WHO, it has already spread to at least 17 countries.

The disastrous new chapter of the pandemic in India threatens not just its safety but puts the entire world at risk.

Read more here.

Australia retreats on jail threat for India travellers

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison has fended off accusations of racism and having “blood on his hands” as he retreated from a threat to jail Australians trying to escape coronavirus-wracked India.

Australia last week banned all travellers from India, including its own citizens, from entering the country until May 15 due to the surge in COVID-19 cases there, and warned offenders will face the maximum penalties of five years in jail and a 66,000 Australian dollar ($51,122) fine for breaking border rules.

Read more here.

India’s vaccinations plummet as infections soar

India’s daily COVID-19 shots have fallen sharply from an all-time high reached early last month as domestic companies struggle to boost supplies and imports are limited.

Daily inoculations have averaged 2.5 million since hitting a peak of 4.5 million on April 5.

India, with the world’s biggest vaccine making capacity, has partially or fully immunised only 9.5 percent of its 1.35 billion people, according to data from the government’s Co-Win portal.

Main opposition leader calls for national lockdown

Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi has called for a nationwide lockdown as the country’s tally of coronavirus infections surged past 20 million, becoming the second nation after the United States to pass the grim milestone.

“The only way to stop the spread of Corona now is a full lockdown… GOI’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” Congress MP Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to the government of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown due to the economic fall out, yet several states have imposed various social restrictions.

‘Horrible’ weeks ahead, warns prominent expert

Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health in the United States, said he is concerned that Indian policymakers he has been in contact with believe things will improve in the next few days.

“I’ve been … trying to say to them, ‘If everything goes very well, things will be horrible for the next several weeks. And it may be much longer,’” he said.

Jha said the focus needs to be on “classic” public health measures: targeted shutdowns, more testing, universal mask-wearing and avoiding large gatherings. “That is what’s going to break the back of this surge,” he said.

India’s tally of COVID-19 infections crosses 20 million

India’s tally of coronavirus infections surged past 20 million, boosted by 357,229 new cases over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 3,449 for a total of 222,408 fatalities, health ministry data showed.

India becomes the world’s second nation, after the United States, to pass the grim milestone. It took the South Asian country just over four months to add 10 million cases, versus more than 10 months for its first 10 million.

Wife of Nanhe Pal, 52, cries as she pleads for oxygen support for her husband, who is suffering from breathing problems at a Sikh temple in Ghaziabad, India [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

India virus crisis a ‘disaster like an earthquake’

Doctors in New Dehli hospitals say their infrastructure is close to collapse amid India’s coronavirus surge and begged for help from the West and the international community.

Beds are full and supplies of oxygen have run dangerously low in facilities, leading to increased fatalities. In some cases the only way for a new patient to get an ICU bed is if the previous occupant dies.

The crisis seems to show no signs of abating, meaning medical staff are also close to exhaustion.

A doctor compared the situation with a “major disaster” and said a response comparable to that given after an earthquake was necessary.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies