Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Mumbai in lockdown as Indian vaccines run short


MUMBAI, April 10, ( AFP) - India's coronaviru­s epicentre Maharashtr­a went into a statewide weekend lockdown on Saturday as the country battled exploding infection numbers and shortages of vaccines, drugs and hospital beds.

Having let its guard down with mass religious festivals, political rallies and spectators at cricket matches, India is experienci­ng a ferocious new wave with around a million new cases in the past week.

After a lockdown a year ago caused widespread misery and one of the sharpest downturns of any major economy, the central government is desperate to avoid a hugely unpopular second shutdown.

But many states are tightening the screw, in particular Maharashtr­a and its capital Mumbai, where restaurant­s are shut and public gatherings of more than five people are banned.

Every weekend until the end of April the state's 125 million people are confined to their homes unless shopping for food, medicine or travelling.

“I'm not for the lockdown at all but I don't think the government has any other choice,” media profession­al Neha Tyagi, 27, told AFP in Mumbai. “This lockdown could have been totally avoided if people would take the virus seriously.” In further grim news, a fire broke in a private hospital in the state killing four patients, the fire brigade said. Last month a blaze at a Mumbai clinic killed 11.

With the country grappling with the new surge, cricket is now being played behind closed doors -- including the big-bucks Indian Premier League, which began Friday -- and in many regions including in New Delhi and Bangalore a night curfew is in force.

Election rallies in West Bengal are going ahead however, as is the colossal Kumbh Mela religious f e s t iv a l in Uttarakhan­d with millions expected next week by the holy Ganges river.

Virus tests are in theory compulsory there, but chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat has said pilgrims will not be “unnecessar­ily harassed in the name of Covid-19 restrictio­ns”.

Raipur district, home to the capital of Chhattisga­rh state, is under a 10- day lockdown with no one allowed to enter the area unless performing essential services.

India's drive to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people also looks to be hitting problems, with just 94 million shots administer­ed so far and stocks running low, according to local authoritie­s.

In megacity Mumbai, all 72 private vaccinatio­n centres were shut until Tuesday while opening hours were reduced at government and municipal centres, authoritie­s said. “If we don't receive more stock by Sunday, even government centres will be shut from Monday,” city health official Mangala Gomare said.

The Times of India reported Friday that states on average had just over five days of stock left even as vaccine makers scramble to increase output.

The CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine maker by volume, has warned that production capacity is “very stressed”.

Poorer countries, as well as some rich nations, have relied heavily on Serum for supplies of the AstraZenec­a vaccine, but last month New Delhi put the brakes on exports to prioritise domestic needs. Several states are also experienci­ng shortages of coronaviru­s treatment drug Remdesivir, reports said.

On Saturday, India reported 145,000 new cases, a new record taking the total to 13.2mn with 170,000 deaths.

 ??  ?? A notice about the shortage of coronaviru­s disease (COVID-19) vaccine supplies is seen at a vaccinatio­n centre, in Mumbai. (Reuters)
A notice about the shortage of coronaviru­s disease (COVID-19) vaccine supplies is seen at a vaccinatio­n centre, in Mumbai. (Reuters)

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