India marked a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, reporting 314,835 new daily cases, the highest one-day tally anywhere.
India surpassed the previous highest one-day rise in the world of 297,430 cases posted by the United States in January.
India’s total coronavirus cases are now at 15.93 million, while deaths rose by 2,104 to reach a total of 184,657, according to health ministry data.
Television showed people with empty oxygen cylinders crowding refilling facilities in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.
“We never thought a second wave would hit us so hard,” Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the executive chairman of Biocon & Biocon Biologics, an Indian healthcare firm said.
India has already launched a vaccination drive but only a tiny fraction of the population has had the shots.
Authorities have announced that vaccines will be available to anyone over the age of 18 from May 1 but India won’t have enough shots for the 600 million people who will become eligible.
Similar surges of infections elsewhere, in South America in particular, are overwhelming health services there.
Health experts said India had let its guard down when the virus seemed to be under control during the winter, when new daily cases were about 10,000, and it lifted restrictions to allow big gatherings.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has come in for criticism for holding packed political rallies for local elections and allowing a religious festival at which millions gathered.
On Thursday, despite the biggest public health emergency the country has faced in a generation, people were voting in the eastern state of West Bengal for a new state assembly in an election that Modi has been campaigning in.
“It’s a festival of democracy and everyone is participating. You can see the queues,” said Krishna Kalyan, a candidate from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).