India’s prime minister received his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as the country hit another peak on Thursday with 126,789 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.
“Vaccination is among the few ways we have, to defeat the virus. If you are eligible for the vaccine, get your shot soon,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
He received his first vaccine shot on March 1.
India started its vaccination drive in January. So far, more than 90 million health workers and Indians older than 45 have received at least one shot. Only 11m of them have received both doses as India tries to build immunity to protect its nearly 1.4 billion people.
The new cases reported by the health ministry overtook Wednesday’s 115,736 infections with dozens of cities and towns imposing night curfews to try to contain infections.
Fatalities rose by 685 in the past 24 hours, the highest since November, raising the nation’s toll to 166,862 dead since the pandemic began.
The western state of Maharashtra, the worst hit in the country, accounted for nearly 47 per cent of new infections.
The federal government has refused to impose a second nationwide lockdown, after the first last year had a steep economic impact, but it has asked states to decide on imposing local restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.
India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 80,000 cases per day and has reported 12.9m virus cases since the pandemic began, the third-highest total after the United States and Brazil.
Vaccine centres shutting early
Vaccine centres in several states, including hardest-hit Maharashtra, have been shutting early and turning people away as supplies run out. Odisha state said it had closed half its vaccination sites.
“Due to a shortage of vaccines, we are suspending vaccination at government and private hospitals until supplies become available,” said municipal authorities in the city of Panvel near India’s financial capital Mumbai in Maharashtra.
Vaccination centres were also shut in Satara district in the state since Wednesday, said Vinay Gowda, a senior government official.
The federal government denied there was any shortage for the prioritised group of recipients — those aged above 45 years and front-line workers — accusing states of spreading panic.
Opposition parties have blamed the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for exporting tens of millions of vaccine doses while itself covering only a fraction of India’s 1.35bn people. India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker.
“Why was there no strategy or planning put into the logistics of the vaccine programme?” the main opposition Congress party said on Twitter. “Why is there both extremely high wastage & an acute shortage of vaccines?”
The Serum Institute of India, which has supplied about 90pc of the 88m vaccine doses administered in the country, has sought a federal grant of $400m to increase its capacity to make the AstraZeneca shot.
India is also using a homegrown vaccine developed by a government institute and Bharat Biotech, which is struggling to boost its output.
New Zealand bans entry from India
New Zealand is temporarily halting travel from India as more arrivals from that country test positive for the coronavirus.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the suspension takes effect on Sunday and will remain in place until April 28. She said it is the first time New Zealand has suspended travel for its own citizens attempting to return home, and she emphasised the measure was temporary.
The announcement comes after a security guard at a New Zealand quarantine hotel tested positive for the virus.
There is no evidence the outbreak has spread any further.
New Zealand has managed to stamp out the spread of the virus, so whenever somebody who is not in quarantine tests positive it represents a significant concern. The nation of five million people has reported 2,500 cases and 26 deaths since the pandemic began.