Indian capital New Delhi has imposed a weeklong lockdown to prevent the collapse of the city’s health system, which authorities say has been pushed to its limit amid an explosive surge in coronavirus cases.
Just months after India thought it had seen the worst of the pandemic, the virus is now spreading at a rate faster than at any other time, said Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan has been tracking infections in India.
The surge is devastating for India and has weighed heavily on the global efforts to end the pandemic since the country is a major vaccine producer but has been forced to delay exports of shots abroad, hampering campaigns in developing countries in particular.
The rise in cases comes as the global death toll from the coronavirus passed a staggering 3 million people Saturday amid repeated setbacks in the worldwide vaccination campaign and a deepening crisis in places beyond India as well, such as Brazil and France.
India reported over 270,000 infections on Monday, it’s highest daily rise since the pandemic started. It has now recorded more than 15 million infections and more than 178,000 deaths. Experts agree that even these figures are likely undercounted. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off a trip to New Delhi amid the rise in cases.
In response, officials have begun to impose stringent measures again. The Indian capital was shut down over the weekend, but now authorities are extending that for a week: All shops and factories will close, except for those that provide essential services, like grocery stories. People are not supposed to leave their homes, except for a handful of reasons, like seeking medical care. They will also be allowed to travel to airports or train stations.
They were the strictest measures imposed since India’s harsh lockdown last year, which lasted months and left deep scars. Politicians have since been reticent to even mention the word. When similar measures were imposed in Mahrashtra state, home to the financial capital of Mumbai, in recent days, officials refused to call it a lockdown. Those restrictions are to last 15 days.
Doctors and officials say the measures are necessary to ease pressure on the fragile health system, which has been underfunded for decades. A failure to prepare for the current surge has left hospitals, in New Delhi and other large cities, crumbling under the pressure of mounting infections.