India has reported more than 314,000 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours for the first time, surpassing the record for infections in a single day previously set by the US in January.
The country also saw its deadliest day so far, as it recorded 2,104 deaths due to coronavirus in the day up to Thursday morning.
India recently outstripped Brazil to become the second worst-hit country in the pandemic, and it has been rocked by a devastating second wave since the country appeared close to a return to normalcy in January.
There are widespread shortages of oxygen and hospital beds in Delhi, currently the worst-affected single city, while the situation is also dire in the states of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which reported 67,468 and 33,214 new infections respectively.
Experts have attributed the second wave to the emergence of more infectious virus variants, as well as fatigue with pandemic safety measures and the decision to allow a range of large political and religious gatherings.
The country has now added more than 200,000 cases every day since 15 April, brining its total number of confirmed cases above 15.9 million, with more than 184,000 deaths.
The unprecedented oxygen crisis has descended into a tragedy, forcing major hospitals in Delhi to appeal to the high court for urgent action. Judges strongly criticised the central government on Wednesday afternoon, asking why the Modi administration was “not waking up to reality”, reported NDTV.
“How is the government so oblivious to the reality on ground? You can’t have people die because there is no oxygen,” the Delhi High Court said in response to the plea from the Max hospital group, which raised alarm over shortages of oxygen in their hospitals.
After India was added to Britain’s “red-list” following the emergence of the “double mutant” Covid variant, Heathrow airport refused to allow extra flights between India and the UK before Friday – when the restrictions will come into effect.
The London airport turned down the requests from airlines to add extra flights till Friday over the concerns of long queues at passport control.