NEW DELHI – Delhi decided on a week-long lockdown across the city on Monday as infections and deaths in India hit new daily records and several local governments, including those in the state capital, reported shortages of oxygen, beds and drugs.
India reported more than 272,000 cases and 1,619 deaths on Monday as a second wave of the coronavirus spread across the country. The worsening situation has resulted in UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceling a planned trip to the country next week, a decision the UK and Indian governments announced on Monday.
Arvind Kejriwal, the prime minister of Delhi, announced a city-wide lockdown on Monday, starting at 10 p.m. and ending at around 5 a.m. on April 26.
“Our health systems have reached their limits,” he said. “We have almost no more intensive care beds. We have a great lack of oxygen. “
Only essential services, including grocery stores, pharmacies and grocery delivery, are allowed, he said. Wedding ceremonies are limited to 50 people.
“If we don’t lock it now, it could lead to a major tragedy,” said Kejriwal.
Also on Monday, a court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh ordered lockdown-like restrictions in the cities of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur through April 26. Government offices, hotels, restaurants, malls, and grocery stores with more than three workers will be closed in these cities.
“We cannot evade our constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic,” the court said in its decision.
Last week, the state government of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai’s financial center, banned public gatherings and ordered most businesses to close for the next few weeks after hospitals there were overwhelmed. Its Prime Minister appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use the Indian Air Force to ventilate oxygen bottles to meet state demand.
India is also facing a shortage of the experimental drug remdesivir.
On Sunday, Hemant Soren, the prime minister of the eastern state of Jharkhand, asked the central government to allow him to import 50,000 vials of the medicine, which the World Health Organization did not recommend, from Bangladesh in case of emergency.
“The uncertainty of the situation is evident from the fact that Jharkhand only received 8,038 vials against the total order of 76,640 vials,” Soren wrote in a letter to the central government.
The shortage has sparked disputes between opposition-led state governments and Mr Modi’s government, which controls the supply of much-needed medical oxygen and medicines.
On Sunday, Piyush Goyal, a minister in Mr. Modi’s cabinet, urged states to “keep oxygen demands under control” and allow patients to only “use as much oxygen as they need”.
“There is news in many places that oxygen is being given even when it is not needed,” he said. Opposition leaders criticized his statements.
Mr Modi and his top lieutenants have also come under pressure to hold political rallies that bring thousands of people together, regardless of social distancing, at a time when coronavirus cases in the country are spiraling out of control.
On Saturday, Mr. Modi praised the crowd at a rally in the eastern state of West Bengal, where elections are taking place. Yashwant Sinha, a former leader of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party, who is now the head of the opposition United Democratic Alliance, said the remarks “could only have come from a person who is completely insensitive.”
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said on Sunday that he would cancel his political rallies in the state.
“I would advise all political leaders to think deeply about the consequences of large public rallies in the current circumstances,” he said.