India hits record with 170k daily Covid cases amid fears it will be ‘new Brazil’ as 1million people flock to Ganges

COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing in India amid overcrowding and complacency as a million converge for a Hindu festival. 

A full opening of the economy from last year’s crippling lockdown, coupled with the mass religious festivals and political rallies in states heading to elections have fuelled the crisis.

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It emerged today India has racked up the world’s highest tally of new daily coronavirus infections, by far beating its own record. 

This has carried India past Brazil for a tally of 13.53 million, data shows, amid fears it may become a new breeding ground for mutant virus like the South American country. 

It now ranks as the second-most infected country after the United States, with 31.2 million.

More than 170,200 Indians have perished so far from the virus. 

And the alarming tally is on course to double in two months, according to estimates based on data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Almost everyone forgot that there was ever corona

Meanwhile, there is a shortage of vaccines, hospital beds and drugs with India banning the export of anti-viral drug Remdesivir.

Yet authorities appeared unwilling or unable to stop events that could lead to a calamitous spread of the disease.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees flocked today to take a holy bath in India’s Ganges river in the northern city of Haridwar.

Police official Sanjay Gunjyal told Reuters at the site: "The crowd here is surging… the police are continuously appealing to people to maintain social distancing,"

By mid-morning a million people had taken a dip in the river, believed to wash away one’s sins.

Thousands more people are attending political rallies in four big states set for elections this month, including two events today in the eastern state of West Bengal, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to speak.

Alarmed at the infection data, political commentator Shekhar Gupta tweeted: "With 1.2 million active cases, and the daily number reaching 200,000, it’s bizarre to have poll rallies and a full Kumbh Mela."

Officials and experts said authorities had underestimated the resilience of the virus, believing they had beaten it after daily cases fell below 10,000 in early February.

In the worst-hit state of Maharashtra, home to the financial capital of Mumbai, authorities said they were considering a broader lockdown this week after large closures at the weekend.

A  senior state official, who sought anonymity, told Reuters: "It is necessary to break the cycle (of infections).

"We are working on identifying industries and services that need to be exempted."

As India’s second wave of infections builds, with fewer than 4 per cent estimated to have been vaccinated among a population of 1.4 billion, experts say the situation could have a long way to go before it starts getting better.

"After cases declined in January-February, we were very comfortable," said a panel of high court judges in the western state of Gujarat, calling on authorities to take urgent steps to rein in the outbreak.

“Almost everyone forgot that there was ever corona,” added the panel, headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath.

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