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The country is facing its worst health challenge in recent years with the shortage of medical oxygen, hospital beds and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir used in the treatment of Covid. The fresh surge surpasses the previous highest one-day rise in the world of 2,97,430 cases posted by the United States in January, news agency Reuters reported. 1.84 lakh people have died so far.
The centre has assured that "oxygen demand and supply is being monitored round the clock". Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in a tweet last night said the government has increased "quota of oxygen" for seven states- Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi.
Over 2 lakh infections are being recorded everyday since April 15. The second wave is yet to peak, says centre, and experts are not sure when the cases will decline. Maharashtra (67,468), Uttar Pradesh (33,106), Delhi (24,638), Karnataka (23,558) and Kerala (22,414) were the five states that recorded the biggest surge in 24 hours.
More and more states are announcing tough restrictions. In Maharashtra, the worst-hit state, the Uddhav Thackeray government has announced new Covid curbs as part of "Break-the-Chain" programme. The state on Wednesday reported the highest number of Covid deaths in a day at 568.
In the new Maharashtra rules, attendance at all private and government offices not directly connected to the Covid fight will be capped at 15 per cent. Attendance at weddings has been limited to 25. The use of private vehicles, excluding buses, will only be allowed for essential services or valid reasons, like medical emergencies.
Delhi's desperate oxygen crisis was the subject of a marathon hearing at the High Court on Wednesday. Hitting out at the centre, the court said: "How is the government so oblivious to the reality on ground? You can't have people die because there is no oxygen." Asking the government to ensure oxygen for those who need it, the High Court remarked: "Beg, borrow, steal... it's your job."
In the middle of the raging Covid cases, parts of Bengal are voting today in the sixth round of eight-phase elections. Politicians have been criticised for continuing their election rallies despite the infections Covid surge. Union Minister Amit Shah will attend three poll meetings today. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will hold four public meetings in north and central Bengal.
The death of 24 people at a hospital in Maharashtra's Nashik on Wednesday shocked the nation. An oxygen tanker leaked outside the hospital, disrupting supply to patients for around 30 minutes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the tragedy as "heart-wrenching".
Yesterday the government, for the first time, shared data on Covid infections after vaccinations. "Two to four per 10,000 breakthrough infections of COVID-19 have happened after people received the vaccine. This is a very, very low number, nothing to panic about," said Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said to states that a "lockdown should be the last resort". The alarming surge in infections comes amid efforts to step up vaccine coverage. 13.22 doses have been administered so far. The vaccine net will be widened to all people above 18 from May 1.