Dubai: India reported a record 115,736 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, while New Delhi, Mumbai and dozens of other cities announced they are imposing curfews to try to slow the soaring infections.
India has recorded a total of 12.8 million coronavirus cases with deaths from COVID-19 rising by 630 - the most in four days - to 166,177, according to new health ministry data.
Some states, including Maharashtra and Odisha, have complained of a scarcity of vaccines during a second wave. Only those aged over 45 are being immunised at present.
"Vaccination centres have to close early due to a shortage of supplies," the western state's health minister, Rajesh Tope, told reporters, adding that stocks would run out in three days after the daily injection of over 450,000 doses.
India's health minister Harsh Vardhan said allegations of vaccine shortage are utterly baseless, Reuters reported. "Vaccine supplies are being monitored on a real-time basis, and state governments are being apprised regularly about it," Harsh Vardhan said in a statement.
To requests from states to widen the immunisation drive to include more adults, he said: "So long as the supply of vaccines remains limited, there is no option but to prioritise."
More than half of India’s daily new cases are in Maharashtra.
The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as shops and offices reopen. Epidemiologists say campaigning for state elections and coronavirus variants have played a role in the spurt in cases.
The government has refused to impose another national lockdown as seen last year, but states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Punjab and Karnataka have in recent days imposed new curbs, including night curfews in some places.
Gujarat in western India extended after-dark restrictions to 20 cities and banned large social and political gatherings.
“We have also extended the timing of night curfew from 8 pm to 6 am... This will be in force until April 30,” Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani said in a video message.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), one of Delhi’s biggest government hospitals, will from Thursday end walk-in consultations to minimise infections, reports said.
Barely six months after they returned, thousands of migrants working in Mumbai are planning to return home fearing a fresh lockdown.
With night curfews, stringent daytime restrictions and a weekend lockdown imposed across the state, migrants from different parts of India do not want to be stuck away from home, as was the case during the nationwide lockdown last year, IANS reported.
A majority of them, especially the skilled and semi-skilled workers, were brought back from their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha by their employers after the lockdown was eased in phases in August 2020.
The Bihar government has started setting up quarantine centres in villages to house returning migrant workers, our correspondent reports. Villagers are also cancelling bookings for wedding functions in view of the state government restricting number of guests and enforcing coronavirus guidelines.
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India has so far administered 86 million vaccine doses, 90% of those the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India. The rest have come from Indian company Bharat Biotech. Both vaccines require two doses. More than 75 million people in India have received at least one dose. Only the United States and China have administered more doses.
Masks in cars
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that wearing of a mask in a vehicle is compulsory during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if the vehicle is occupied only by its driver.
A single judge bench of Justice Pratibha M. Singh observed that if vehicles pass through public places, there is a possibility that others may also get exposed.
"Wearing of a mask or a face cover in a vehicle, which may be occupied by either a single person or multiple persons, is...compulsory in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic," said the court.