India records over 100,000 new cases in one day for the first time.
In Mumbai, India, on Monday. India is the second country after the United States to cross the 100,000-case threshold in a single day. Credit…Niharika Kulkarni/Reuters
More than a year into the pandemic, India recorded its highest tally of new coronavirus infections on Monday as officials in the hardest-hit state reimposed lockdowns and warned that hospitals even in smaller cities were running out of beds.
The worrisome developments were reminiscent of earlier waves in the pandemic, yet they came even as India continues to vaccinate more than three million people every day, one of the largest efforts in the world.
Officials announced Monday morning that they had recorded 103,558 new cases in 24 hours, making India the second country after the United States to cross the 100,000-case threshold in a single day. After several months of declines, daily infections have surged tenfold since the second week of February.
More than half of the new infections were traced to the western state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, India’s financial capital. The state government ordered all shops, movie theaters, markets and restaurants to close starting Monday evening and imposed a nighttime curfew, exempting only essential services.
With 12.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a New York Times database, India’s caseload is the world’s third highest after the United States and Brazil. Officials have attributed the recent spike to a relaxed attitude among Indians when it comes to wearing masks and maintaining social distance.
But critics say Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has sent mixed signals. Officials have allowed large crowds to gather for a major Hindu religious festival — where hundreds of coronavirus infections have been reported — while Mr. Modi’s party has held crowded rallies in several states where local elections have begun.
In the early days of the pandemic, Mr. Modi enacted one of the world’s severest and most abrupt lockdowns, leaving hundreds of thousands of migrant workers instantly unemployed and forcing many to return to their villages on foot. As India’s already ailing economy contracted even further, Mr. Modi began lifting restrictions last May, and infections started to explode.
The new restrictions in Mumbai have been met with resistance by opposition politicians and business leaders. Representatives of the hotel industry appealed to the Maharashtra state government for financial support and tax waivers, saying the latest lockdown moves would bring economic doom.
India’s vaccination drive has been a rare bright spot domestically, but at a cost to other nations: The government has curtailed exports of vaccines manufactured by its mammoth pharmaceutical industry, dealing a setback to poorer countries that had been relying on India for their doses.
— Sameer Yasir