For the first time, India recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day, and more states imposed lockdowns on Saturday in a desperate attempt to halt the deadly new outbreak.
With the addition of 4,187 new deaths, India’s total death toll since the outbreak began has risen to 238,270. In just 24 hours, it added 401,078 new cases, bringing its total caseload to nearly 21.9 million, second only to the United States.
Experts who have questioned the official death toll believe the new wave will not peak until the end of May, and there have been growing calls for tough national measures.
Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order a national lockdown or the spread could be “devastating” for India and other countries.
Britain has already declared a new variant found in India to be of “concern”.
The government, stung by criticism of its handling of the new crisis, has largely left individual state administrations to handle pandemic clampdowns.
While major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai have been boosted by extra supplies of oxygen — much of it from abroad — and new hospital beds opened up, the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have all ordered lockdowns to counter an explosion in cases.
Karnataka, which includes the major IT hub of Bangalore, has ordered a statewide two-week lockdown from Monday in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
The state added more than 48,000 cases in a day with Bangalore, home to many Indian and global information technology giants, bearing the brunt.
The city of nine million people, which saw 1,907 coronavirus deaths in April, has recorded more than 950 just in the first seven days of May.