COVID-19 has shaken India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his monthly radio address Sunday, as he urged citizens to get their shots and not be swayed by what he called “any rumor about the vaccine.”
The remarks came as the capital city of New Delhi extended by one week a lockdown that was set to be lifted Monday.
India’s health ministry said 349,691 new cases had been recorded in the nation in the previous 24-hour period, yet another daily record. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The new infection figures are likely undercounted, public health officials have warned. Reports from the ministry of a string of days with more than 300,000 new infections represents “just a fraction of the real reach of the virus’s spread,” according to the New York Times.
The United States is under pressure from the international community to release some of its warehoused vaccines to India and other countries that need the shots.
India has administered almost 138 million doses of the vaccine, but only 1.6% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
U.S. President Joe Biden Sunday pledged to help India. From his Twitter account, he said, “Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need.”
Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, spoke Sunday with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, and expressed sympathy about the recent spike in cases in India, according to a National Security Council spokeswoman.
The U.S. has “identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India,” the spokeswoman said. In addition, she said the U.S. is sending therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment to India.
The U.S. International Development Finance Corp. is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for Biological E Ltd., or BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India.
Other countries, including Britain, France and Germany have said they will also help, as has India’s arch-foe Pakistan.
In addition to hundreds of thousands of new daily cases, India is also experiencing an oxygen shortage, literally leaving some COVID patients gasping for air.
The Biden administration’s top medical adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the U.S. is attempting to help India contain its coronavirus surge by providing technical support and assistance.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Fauci said that a proposal for the U.S. to send more than 20 million doses of stockpiled AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which hasn’t been approved for use in the U.S., “is up for active consideration.” He added that he didn’t “want to be speaking for policy right now.”
Johns Hopkins data showed early Sunday that there were more than 146 million global COVID-19 infections. India has the world’s second highest number of confirmed cases, with nearly 17 million. The United States has the most infections with about 32 million.
Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that incoming flights from India will be reduced by 30% because of the increase in cases there.
Additionally, the Reuters news agency reports that starting Monday evening (at 6 p.m. local time) and through May 1, the Netherlands will ban passenger flights from India because of fears over a new variant. Reuters, however, said cargo flights and planes carrying medical personnel are not included in the ban.
Bangladeshi officials are also closing land borders with India for two weeks because of the increased number of cases. And Thailand added its name to the countries banning travelers departing from India.
India is the world’s second most populous nation, with an estimated 1.4 billion people.