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.
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.
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.