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Indian Prime Minister Modi loses state election amid criticism over pandemic response

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party lost a key state of the election over the weekend amid growing criticism of its attitude to the country’s deteriorating Covid-19 crisis.

On Monday, India registered more than 300,000 new cases for the 12th day in a row, leading to a total of 20 million infections in the country, according to the health ministry. Experts fear that the real number could be 10 times higher in the country with more than 1.35 billion people.

The country also reported more than 218,000 deaths on Monday, the third largest death toll in the world after the United States and Brazil.

Hospitals across India continue to struggle with the lack of medical supplies of oxygen and beds in intensive care units as whole families that have tested positive hospitals for floods. This left hospitals overcrowded and patients dying from supply shortages.

A New Delhi court, meanwhile, said it would punish government officials if distributed oxygen supplies were not delivered to hospitals, the Associated Press reported.

India, a country that produces vaccines for the rest of the world, is facing a shortage in the country. The government announced last week that vaccination centers in Mumbai should be closed due to declining supplies.

PPE healthcare workers are treating Covid-19 patients in a temporary facility set up for those suffering from the virus in New Delhi on Sunday.Tauseef Mustafa / AFP – Getty images

Despite Modi’s frequent visits to West Bengal in recent weeks to campaign, his Bharatiya Janata party did not win the election. Experts say the party’s mass rallies, along with mass gatherings for religious congregations such as the one-month-old Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, have exacerbated the spread of the virus.

Modi’s party also lost in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but won in Puducherry and retained power in the northeastern state of Assam.

The Prime Minister of West Bengal, Mama Banerjee, will win the country for the third time. During a press conference in the capital of West Bengal, Calcutta, Banardji said that the fight against Covid-19 would be a priority for her government in the state with a population of almost 100 million.

India also broke a world record over the weekend by transferring 400,000 daily infections in one day as the Modi government received criticism for not preparing for this painful second wave.

The pressure on Modi is growing both internationally and domestically. Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Indian Express that a temporary measure would be needed to tackle India’s “very difficult and desperate situation”.

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“No one likes to lock the country. Well, that’s a problem when you do it for six months, “he said. “But if you do it in just a few weeks, you can have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak.”

Although a number of states in India, including the capital New Delhi, have introduced independent blockades in the last few weeks, the government has not imposed a national lock similar to the one implemented in March 2020.

In its fight against the virus, India has received aid and supplies from several countries, including the United States. Administration officials said they were sending oxygen equipment, raw materials for vaccine production, and rapid testing kits. The United States Agency for International Development tweeted that a fourth U.S. plane carrying 20,000 rounds of Remdesivir treatment arrived in India on Monday.

However, many countries have also imposed travel restrictions on India, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany and New Zealand, among others.

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