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INDIA’S confirmed Covid-19 infections passed five million cases today, rising rapidly as the healthcare system struggles to provide oxygen in thousands of impoverished towns and villages.
The country has the second-highest number of cases in the world and has added one million cases in September alone.
It is predicted to become the world’s worst-hit country within weeks while battling poverty and exploitation from Western countries, as well as the conflict with Pakistan.
India’s Health Ministry reported today that 1,290 people had died in the past 24 hours, and about 0.35 per cent of the nation’s nearly 1.4 billion people are confirmed with the virus.
Despite the rapid rise and the toll on the healthcare system, authorities have ruled out imposing a second nationwide lockdown as the fatality rate is far lower than the United States and Brazil.
Most of India’s deaths are concentrated in its large cities, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune. But smaller urban centres such as Nagpur or Jalgaon have also reported more than 1,000 deaths.
Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said on Tuesday that only about 6 per cent of the coronavirus patients in India were on oxygen.
Referring to media reports that some hospitals in Maharashtra state, which is the worst-affected region, are facing a shortage of oxygen cylinders, Mr Bhushan said the supplies were adequate in the country, but state governments should monitor the situation.
The Health Ministry said 155 health workers, including 46 doctors, have died so far due to Covid-19.
India’s health resources are poorly divided across the country. Nearly 600 million Indians live in rural areas, and with the virus spreading fast, health experts worry that hospitals could be overwhelmed.
With the economy declining by a record 23.9 per cent in April-June, leaving millions jobless, the Indian government is continuing to relax lockdown restrictions that were imposed in late March.
Meanwhile, Russia has agreed to a deal to sell 100 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik-V, to a pharmaceutical company in India, a source close to the deal told Reuters.
The source said that clinical trials of the vaccine in India are expected to follow.
Trials of Sputnik-V was launched on August 26 in Russia involving at least 40,000 people.
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