India surpassed 4,000 deaths from COVID-19 for the second consecutive day Thursday as two of the country's states have suspended inoculations.
Along with the 4,120 deaths, the Indian Health Ministry reported 362,727 new confirmed coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours.
A surge of new infections in the world’s second most-populous country has created a humanitarian disaster there, with hospitals filled to capacity, an acute shortage of oxygen to treat the sick and scores of makeshift crematories burning the dead. Experts believe the actual numbers of deaths and cases are much higher than the official totals.
The situation took an unsettling turn this week after more than 100 bodies were found floating in the Ganges river. The images sparked anger and speculation that the people who died succumbed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Authorities have yet to determine the cause of death, but some medical experts have voiced concern that the coronavirus can be spread through contaminated water.
The crisis in the South Asian nation is aggravated by shortage of vaccines as well the raw materials needed to manufacture them, despite India being home to the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer. So far, less than three percent of India’s 1.3 billion citizens are fully vaccinated.
The situation has prompted the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka to suspend vaccinations for people between 18 and 44 years old in order to prioritize older people awaiting a second dose.
In one bit of good news, the rate of new COVID-19 infections has declined in the New Delhi area. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia told reporters Thursday that Delhi’s positivity rate has dropped from 35% to 14% over the last 15 days.
In Japan, the troubled Tokyo Olympics, already delayed a year due to the pandemic, has been dealt another blow with about 40 towns cancelling arrangements to host Olympic athletes for pre-competition events, according to the country’s Nikkei newspaper.
Officials in these towns have expressed concerns that the country’s health care system would be overburdened if the Olympics turn into a superspreader event. Many regions are under a state of emergency as the country struggles with a new surge of COVID-19 infections, which has led to growing public opposition to going ahead with the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on July 23.
In a related matter, the U.S. track-and-field team has canceled plans to hold a training camp in the Japanese city of Chiba over concerns about the virus.