NEW DELHI (AP) — India crossed another grim milestone Monday of more than 300,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of new infections that exploded with fury has shown signs of easing.
As recorded by India’s health ministry, the milestone comes as slowed vaccine deliveries have marred the country’s fight against the pandemic, forcing many to miss their shots, and a rare but fatal fungal infection affecting COVID-19 patients has been worried doctors.
India’s death toll is the third-highest reported globally, accounting for 8.6% of the nearly 34.7 million coronavirus fatalities globally, though the actual numbers are thought to be significantly greater.
The health ministry Monday reported 4,454 new death in the last 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 303,720. It also said 222,315 new infections, which raised the overall total to nearly 27 million. Both are almost certainly undercounted.
The first known COVID-19 death in India happened on March 12, 2020, in southern Karnataka state. It took seven months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in late April. The following 100,000 deaths were recorded in just 27 days after new infections tore through dense cities and rural areas and overwhelmed health care systems on the brink of collapse.
Average daily deaths and cases have slightly decreased in the past few weeks, and the government on Sunday said it is conducting the highest number of COVID-19 tests, with more than 2.1 million samples tested in the previous 24 hours.
Megacities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, the worst affected by the latest surge, are also experiencing improvement in recent days. But the virus isn’t finished with India by any means. There are some early indications that it has already taken a ghastly toll in the country’s vast rural areas where a majority of the people live and where health care is limited.
In recent weeks, hundreds of bodies have washed up on the banks of the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh state. Many others have been found buried in shallow graves along its sandy banks. It has prompted concerns that they’re the remains of COVID-19 victims.
India’s vaccination drive has also slowed recently, and many states say they don’t have enough vaccines to administer. The world’s largest vaccine-producing nation has fully vaccinated just over 41.6 million people or only 3.8% of its nearly 1.4 billion population.