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MUMBAI – India confirmed another record jump in the cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer said it was “very stressed” and needed help from the Indian government to boost production.
India is struggling to speed up vaccinations amid its sharpest jump in coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. Authorities are also trying to balance stricter traffic restrictions, while ensuring fair voting in five regions holding state elections throughout the month.
Despite bans on large gatherings in other parts of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared in person at several political rallies Tuesday in West Bengal, one of the jurisdictions voting this month. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party hopes to infiltrate West Bengal, one of the last bastions of the opposition.
To date, India has administered nearly 90 million doses of vaccine. But that’s still less than 6% of the population of nearly 1.4 billion. Modi received his first dose of coronavirus vaccine on March 1.
In an interview with local television, Adar Poonavala, chief executive of the Serum Institute in India, said late Tuesday that his company’s production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the most commonly used injection in India, was “very stressful. , honestly . “
“We are prioritizing India’s needs, but we are still failing to deliver to every Indian,” Poonavala said.
He said he plans to take out bank loans if the Indian government does not respond to his request for about $ 400 million to meet his requirements.
After advertising its ability to export millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines, India has diverted some of these shipments for domestic use in recent weeks. Other countries have complained that their orders for vaccines from India have been delayed.
The health ministry confirmed on Wednesday 115,736 new infections and 630 deaths – the highest death toll in India since November.
About half of the new cases are in the western state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is the state capital. Hospitals there are left without beds, oxygen and medicines. Apartment complexes in which the residents have positive results are closed and guarded by the police.
Mumbai and the national capital Delhi remain under night curfew. The Delhi Supreme Court said on Wednesday that masks are mandatory – even if one drives alone in one’s own car. Gatherings have been banned and officials have closed beaches in Mumbai and other areas where crowds may gather.
But restaurants, shops – even cinemas – remain open in most of India. Officials refused to declare a strict blockade across the country. Last spring, India’s economy shrank by nearly 24% amid national restrictions and there were cases of starvation among the poor.
Instead, the prime ministers of Maharashtra and New Delhi called on the Modi government to raise the age requirement and speed up vaccinations for adults of all ages. But the central government has so far refused. Only people aged 45 or over and certain categories of front-line workers remain eligible.