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MUMBAI – India confirmed another record high in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday when the world’s largest vaccine maker said it was “very stressed” and needed help from the Indian government to increase production.
India is struggling to accelerate vaccinations amid the sharp rise in coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. Authorities are also trying to balance stricter brakes on movement while ensuring fair voting in five regions holding state elections during the month.
Despite bans on large gatherings in other parts of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared in person at several political gatherings on Tuesday in West Bengal, one of the jurisdictions that voted this month. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party hopes to enter West Bengal – one of the last bastions of opposition rule.
India has so far administered nearly 90 million vaccine doses. But it is still less than 6% of the population of almost 1.4 billion. Modi received his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on March 1st.
In an interview with local television, Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said late Tuesday that his company’s production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the most widely used injection in India, is “very stressful, in order to to be honest. “
“We prioritize India’s needs, but we still do not need to be able to supply every Indian,” Poonawalla said.
He said he planned to take out a bank loan if the Indian government did not respond to his request for about $ 400 million to meet its demands.
After proclaiming its ability to export millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines, India has in recent weeks redirected some of these shipments for domestic use. Other countries have complained that their vaccine orders from India are delayed.
The Ministry of Health on Wednesday confirmed 115,736 new infections and 630 deaths – India’s highest death toll since November.
About half of the new cases are in the western part of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is the state capital. Hospitals running out of beds, oxygen and medicine. Apartment complexes where residents test positive are closed and protected by police.
Mumbai and the national capital Delhi both remain under curfew. The High Court in Delhi said on Wednesday that masks are mandatory – even if a person is driving alone in his own car. Gatherings are prohibited and officials have closed Mumbai’s beaches and other areas where crowds can gather.
But restaurants, shops – even cinemas – remain open in most of India. Officials have endured declaring a strict nationwide lockdown. Last spring, India’s economy fell almost 24% under nationwide restrictions, and there were cases of hunger among the poor.
The prime ministers of Maharashtra and New Delhi have instead asked the Modi government to lift the age requirements and speed up vaccinations for adults of all ages. But the central government has so far refused. Only persons aged 45 or over and some categories of frontline workers are still eligible.