india vaccine covishield
In this Monday, March 1, 2021, file photo, a health worker displays a COVISHIELD vaccine before administering it to an elderly person in Gauhati, India. Image Credit: AP

New Delhi: India reported a record-high 126,789 new COVID-19 cases, health ministry data showed on Thursday, with much of the country struggling to contain a second surge in coronavirus infections.

Deaths rose by 685, taking the tally to 166,862, the data showed.

India’s overall caseload reached 12.9 million, the third-most affected globally, behind the United States and Brazil.

The surge is infections has forced several state governments to tighten social distancing rules

The spike, much faster than last year's first wave, has caught the authorities by surprise. The government blames the resurgence mainly on crowding and a reluctance to wear masks as shops and offices have reopened.

Vaccine centres in several states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra, have been shutting early and turning people away as supplies run out. Odisha state said it had closed half its vaccination sites.

Temporary ban

New Zealand has for the first time imposed a temporary ban on travellers coming from India, including its citizens, for about two weeks from April 11 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases among visitors to this country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

The ban will begin on Sunday and will remain in place until April 28, she said.

While arrivals from India had triggered the risk assessment, Prime Minister Ardern said the government would be looking at risks posed by other COVID-19 hotspot countries, the New Zealand Herald reported.