India passed the milestone of 20 million reported coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with many more going undetected, according to experts, sparking new calls for a national lockdown.
With these numbers reported, India became the second country after the US to experience 20 million infections. Although help is already being received from other countries, hospitals are still unable to help many seriously ill and families have to look for much-needed oxygen.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was harshly criticized by many for underestimating the virus earlier this year, and on Tuesday opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said a national lockdown was urgently needed and called it “the only option”.
Mr Gandhi accused authorities of contributing to the spread of the virus. “A crime has been committed against India,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mr Modi was reluctant to impose strict nationwide lockdown measures like last spring that stayed in place for months.
While experts say the lockdown helped reduce the number of cases in the first wave of the pandemic, it also sparked the largest internal migration since the country was divided in 1947. Millions of workers fled the cities and dealt a blow to the economy.
The economy had recovered in recent months, but the current epidemic has dampened hopes for a full recovery and Mr Modi urged states to view lockdowns as a “last resort”. Many states, including some ruled by the party of Mr. Modi and her allies, have issued residence orders.
The regional authorities in Bihar in eastern India ordered a two-week lockdown on Tuesday. The southern state of Kerala also announced restrictions this week. The states of Maharashtra, Delhi, and Karnataka are already locked, and many states have curfews for weekends and nights.
Amid the battle to contain the virus, the Indian Premier League announced Tuesday that it would suspend all remaining games of the season after several players and staff tested positive. The league had been harshly criticizing its games in cities that were among the hardest hit.
The Indian Premier League consists of eight teams and is the largest cricket league in the world.
Since the start of the league season last month, some of the biggest cricket stars have traveled the country in so-called bubbles and played in empty stadiums. But even the strict security protocols couldn’t prevent team members from becoming infected. At least five people in three teams have tested positive. The competition should be over by the end of the month.
“These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring something positive and cheering, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone comes back to their families and loved ones during these difficult times,” he said League said in a statement.
India reported over 368,000 new cases and 3,417 deaths on Monday. More than 222,000 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported, although the actual numbers are most likely much higher.
With aid being shipped from countries such as the United States and Great Britain, there was hope among tired residents that the situation might ease.
Eight oxygen generator systems from France, each of which can supply 250 hospital beds, were planned for six hospitals in Delhi and one each in Haryana and Telangana, states in northern and southern India. One of the generators was installed at Narayana Hospital in Delhi within hours of delivery, according to The Times of India. Italy also donated an oxygen production facility and 20 fans.
Criticized the delay in shipping oxygen concentrators and other equipment, the government announced on Monday that it would waive all duties and taxes on donated life-saving equipment and supplies. However, the authorities were asked to demand more transparency about the use of international aid supplies.
The Indian Red Cross receives all shipments that arrive by air and then hands them over to a government agency that is responsible for distributing the shipments on regional request. The authorities have published a list of hospitals that have received relief supplies without specifying which equipment is going where.