India reports highest worldwide rise in daily Covid-19 cases

Family members sit on benches next to a pyre of a Covid-19 victim at Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium in New Delhi, India in the early hours of Thursday, April 22. Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

India reported 314,835 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the highest daily increase in cases worldwide since the pandemic began.

The country also recorded its highest number of new Covid-19 deaths at 2,104 fatalities.

The stark figures come as health care and other essential services across India are close to collapse amid a second coronavirus wave that is tearing through the country with devastating speed.

The Union Territory of Delhi on Wednesday received less than half of required oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients, with 200-250 metric tons of oxygen against a requirement of 700 metric tons, the advocate for the Delhi government told the high court on Wednesday.

A petition by the Bajaj Medical and Research Centre, which runs a chain of private hospitals, said five of its hospitals in Delhi had between two to 18 hours of oxygen supply left.

While the court was hearing the petition, two of the five private hospitals referred to in the petition had received the supply of oxygen, the court noted.

As of Thursday afternoon, Delhi had 26 vacant ICU beds, according to government data.

Several Indian states have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged states to use lockdown as a last resort.

India’s second most populous state of Maharashtra has announced new restrictions on Wednesday. People will be allowed to travel only for essential services or for “unavoidable events” like funerals. All private passenger transport will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

The new rules will come into force 8 p.m. local time on Thursday and will remain in place until 7 a.m. on May 1.

India had now recorded a total 15,930,965 cases as of Thursday, according to the India Ministry of Health. The total death toll now stands at 184,657.

Some context: India’s population is nearly four times that of the United States, and its daily cases still falls behind the US when adjusted for population size (in cases per million people). But India’s outbreak is undoubtedly the world’s biggest in absolute numbers at the moment — nearly 28% of all new cases worldwide in the past week came from India, said the World Health Organization on Wednesday.