BENGALURU (Reuters) – India’s new coronavirus cases stayed above 300,000 for a sixth consecutive day on Tuesday, while its armed forces pledged urgent medical aid to help battle the staggering spike in infections.
Over the past 24 hours, India recorded 323,144 new cases, below Monday’s worldwide peak of 352,991, with overrun hospitals continuing to turn away patients due to a shortage of beds and oxygen supplies.
It reported 2,771 new deaths, but health experts believe the tally runs significantly higher.
“Please note that a huge fall in daily cases … is largely due to a heavy fall in testing. This should not be taken as an indication of falling cases, rather a matter of missing out on too many positive cases!” Rijo M John, a professor and health economist at the Indian Institute of Management in the southern state of Kerala, said in a post on Twitter.
Several countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Bangladesh and Britain, have taken steps to curb travel from India to prevent more virulent virus variants from entering their borders. Australia is set to consider a proposal to suspend flights from India later in the day.
The situation in the world’s second-most populous country is “beyond heartbreaking”, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
India has called on its armed forces to help tackle the devastating crisis. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said late on Monday that oxygen would be released from armed forces reserves and retired medical personnel would join health facilities that are struggling under the strain of cases.
Nations including Britain, Germany, and the United States have pledged urgent medical aid, while Indian Americans in U.S. Congress and the technology sector have also joined forces to boost aid.
The United States has said it will share 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine with other countries.
“Major lobbying is on at this point of time to secure as much as possible for India,” a senior Indian official part of ongoing negotiations told Reuters, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been assured that India would be given priority.
“At this juncture even harshest critics of India are pushing the U.S. regime” to aid India, the official added.