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India’s capital New Delhi extended its lockdown on Sunday as the country’s COVID-19 crisis escalated to record highs, with infections and deaths.
The health system is struggling to cope with the huge increase. Reports of severe oxygen and drug shortages and patient family members seek help on social media.
India recorded 349,691 new cases and 2,767 deaths in the past 24 hours – the highest since the pandemic began.
The northern megacity – home to 20 million people and the worst hit in India – imposed a week-long lockdown on Monday.
“We have decided to extend the lockdown by a week,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
“The chaos of the corona (virus) continues and there is no pause.”
Delhi reported just over 24,000 new cases on Saturday – more than a quarter of the cases tested produced positive results – and a record high of 357 deaths.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a monthly radio address on Sunday that India was hit by a “storm” as he urged people to get vaccinated and not be “influenced by vaccine rumors”.
The country has given nearly 141 million vaccination shots to date, but experts say the mass vaccination program needs to be stepped up significantly in the nation of 1.3 billion people.
There was growing criticism of Modi’s government for allegations that it was caught unprepared prior to the boom.
On Sunday, Twitter confirmed that it had withheld dozens of crisis-critical tweets following a legal demand from New Delhi.
“If (the content) is found to be illegal in a particular jurisdiction but not in violation of Twitter rules, the only way we can deny access to the content is in India,” the social media giant said in a statement.
Some tweets contained comments, including from regional opposition lawmakers, on the overburdened health system.
The IT department told AFP it had asked Twitter to remove 100 posts, adding that “certain users have abused social media platforms to spread fake or misleading information and panicked over the COVID-19 situation to produce in India “.
Shocking stories of patients dying outside of hospitals have sparked pledges of support from the international community.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted on Sunday that the government “will quickly provide additional support for the Indian people.”
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted that the organization is “pooling resources to respond quickly to India’s request for support”.
Arch enemy Pakistan offered medical equipment and supplies after Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted prayers for a “speedy recovery”.
Other countries have imposed travel restrictions.
Neighboring Bangladesh, which shares a 4,000-kilometer border with India, will stop land crossings for two weeks, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told AFP on Sunday.
The Indian Express reported Sunday that NITI Aayog government advisory council member Vinod K. Paul warned in a presentation to the prime minister and heads of state on Friday that daily cases could soar to half a million by mid-May.
Some states and territories have restricted movement and activities, and Indian-administered Kashmir on Saturday announced a lockdown on the weekend.
Ambulance sirens echoed through empty streets in the northern city of Lucknow in India’s most populous state, which hit Uttar Pradesh badly during its weekend lockdown.
“Nobody answers … calls. Where am I taking the patient?” Abhishek Gaurav, 40, told AFP when he was looking for a hospital bed for his friend in Lucknow. His requests were acknowledged by others.
In Delhi there were chaotic scenes in front of some hospitals.
“He gasped, we took off his face mask and he cried and said, ‘save me, please save me,'” said Mohan Sharma, 17, of his father who died outside a hospital in northeast Delhi.
“But I couldn’t do anything. I just watched him die,” Sharma told AFP.
The government announced on Sunday that more than 500 oxygen generation plants would be built in hospitals. The oxygen supply was also strengthened by special trains and airlifts from containers from other countries.
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