The Citizen (Gauteng)

Covid kills 4 000 a day in India

BODIES: BURNT IN PUBLIC, FLOAT DOWN GANGES RIVER But experts say four times higher toll still an underestim­ate.

- New Delhi

India’s coronaviru­s death toll passed 250 000 yesterday as the World Health Organisati­on said the variant fuelling the surge had been found in dozens of countries across the globe.

While vaccinatio­ns have helped to ease the pandemic crisis in the US and Europe, India is in the grip of a devastatin­g wave.

Another 4 205 deaths were yesterday confirmed over the previous 24 hours, a national record, taking total fatalities to 254 197.

But many experts believe the official numbers of people dying in India, which has one of the world’s most poorly funded health care systems, are an underestim­ate. “Even three to four times would be an underestim­ate,” Anant Bhan, an independen­t health policy and bioethics researcher, told AFP.

Across India overwhelme­d hospitals have been unable to treat people; there are too many bodies for crematoriu­ms to deal with, and many Covid-19 deaths are not properly recorded as such.

Bodies being burnt in car parking bays and other public places have highlighte­d the scale of the crisis.

Bodies have also been seen floating down the holy Ganges river, stoking concerns that the virus is now raging in India’s vast rural hinterland where twothirds of people live and where health care is patchy.

Yesterday, the number of bodies of suspected virus victims washing up on the banks of the river in the northern state of Bihar rose to 71, according to officials. Bihar’s water resources minister said a net had been placed to catch any more bodies.

Huge political rallies and religious events that attracted millions of people over recent months are two key factors being blamed for India’s crisis.

A variant of the virus called B.1.617, which was first detected in India in October, is another.

Many nations have shut their borders to travellers from India in a bid to stop the variant from reaching their shores.

But it has been detected in at least 44 nations, the WHO said on Tuesday.

The United States has officially been the world’s worst-affected country, with more than 500 000 confirmed virus deaths.

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