The number of daily COVID-19 cases in India has risen to 117,100, a five-fold increase in one week and is on track to surpass its previous peak of infection as the rapidly spreading Omicron variant replaces Delta in cities .
Government officials have said privately they are working under the assumption that daily infections will surpass the record of over 414,000 set in May, given what has happened in countries like the United States where daily cases recently passed one million.
“We will clearly surpass our record shortly and reach a new high by early February,” MD Gupte, former director of the National Institute of Epidemiology and government immunization adviser, told Reuters.
“Given the size of our population, we will be reporting more daily cases than in the US But what we have seen is that these cases are much milder, so the need for hospitalization and oxygen and it’s not getting better. “
He said the high rate of infection in India during a previous major wave in April and May, along with vaccinations, would mean a reduction in the severity of the disease for those infected with the Omicron variant.
Almost 70% of Indians had been exposed to the coronavirus by the middle of last year, while an almost equal proportion of adults were fully vaccinated this week.
Health officials in the capital, New Delhi, and in the state of Maharashtra, home to the city of Mumbai, which together account for the bulk of the new cases, said hospitals and testing facilities had failed. not yet under pressure because many people recover quickly. at home.
In Mumbai, about a quarter of all tests are positive, but less than a fifth of those who contracted the virus had to be hospitalized, Maharashtra’s Minister of Health Rajesh Tope told reporters.
The city recorded 20,181 new infections on Thursday, well above its previous record of just over 11,000 set last year.
“About 80% of hospital beds are still empty,” he said.
“Oxygen demand is not increasing in proportion to the increase in cases. At the moment there are no plans to impose a lockdown. If necessary, we can increase the restrictions.”
The state has closed schools and colleges and limited the number of people allowed in cinemas, at weddings and other events.
Delhi, where daily cases have increased more than five times in a week, is entering a 55-hour lockdown from Friday evening to Monday morning.
Authorities have also imposed a weekday nighttime curfew, closed schools and ordered most shops to only open every other day when there is no curfew.
The death toll from COVID-19 in India rose by 302 on Friday, bringing the total to 483,178. The total number of infections stands at 35.23 million, only less than the US tally of around 58 million .
Associated Australian Press