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India's COVID-19 infections at over three-month high led by record jump in Maharashtra

REUTERS
  Kathmandu, Nepal      March 19 2021

 


India's coronavirus infections surged to more than a three-month high on Friday, led by a record daily increase in the western state of Maharashtra, where authorities have adopted fresh curbs to restrain the spread of the disease.

India's overall tally of infections stands at 11.51 million, the highest after the United States and Brazil. The country reported 39,726 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest since Nov. 30.

Deaths rose by 154 to 159,370, data from the health ministry showed.

Maharashtra, home to India's commercial capital, Mumbai, reported record 25,833 cases, accounting for 65% of the country's new infections in the past 24 hours. This marks the single highest daily case count in the state, topping the numbers of September 2020, when India was adding close to 100,000 cases a day.

The state health minister said they have requested 2 million vaccine doses per week from the federal government, with the aim of inoculating 300,000 people per day.

"We are aggressively vaccinating people in the state," Maharashtra's health minister, Rajesh Tope, told reporters.

Hospital beds and special COVID-19 facilities were filling up fast, especially in Mumbai, and other major industrial cities including Nagpur and Pune, officials said.

The capital, New Delhi, has also reported a steady rise in infections over the last two weeks, prompting city authorities to scale up the immunization campaign to 125,000 doses per day, compared with about 40,000 at present.

This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all leaders of states to scale up the ongoing nationwide vaccination campaign aimed at inoculating 300 million people by August.

The country's main opposition has criticised the government for aggressively pushing ahead with vaccine exports instead of scaling up domestic distribution.

Many Indians, including the leaders of a few states, are now demanding inoculation drives be expanded to include the younger population.

Since starting the campaign in mid-January, India has administered more than 39 million doses, most of those Covishield, the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

The country, also the world's biggest vaccine maker, has given away or sold 59 million locally produced doses overseas.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Additional reporting by Rama Venkat; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Gerry Doyle)