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India records 3,293 Covid deaths in single-day spike as PM’s party holds political rallies

NEW DELHI, India: Indian health ministry has reported record 3,293 deaths and 360,960 new cases in the past 24 hours as the devastating second wave overwhelms the country’s healthcare system. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is holding political rallies to drum up support ahead of municipal elections.

India has surpassed the grim milestone of more than 200,000 deaths caused by the Covid-19 disease as a devastating second wave of infections overwhelms the South Asian nation’s under-funded healthcare system.

Hospitals across the country are reporting a shortage of medical oxygen and beds. Even crematoriums are running out of space, with funerals held in parking lots, and parks turned into temporary cremation grounds.

The World Health Organization says a variant of Covid-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in at least 17 countries.

India’s giant IT firms in Bengaluru and other cities have set up Covid-19 “war-rooms” as they scramble to source oxygen, medicine and hospital beds for infected workers and maintain backroom operations for the world’s biggest financial firms.

Banks including Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered, which run much of their global back-office operations from large office parks in Bengaluru, Chennai or Hyderabad, have put in place the infrastructure to vaccinate thousands of employees and their families, when age restrictions are lifted on May 1.

Workers at huge technology service providers Accenture and Wipro say teams are working 13-14 hours daily, under growing pressure and struggling to deliver on projects as staff call in sick and take time off to care for friends and relatives.

“Employees have contracted Covid-19 since the second wave began, causing severe pressure for projects that are nearing deadlines,” said one employee at Accenture, asking not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

In capital New Delhi, ambulances lined up for hours to take Covid-19 victims to makeshift crematorium facilities in parks and parking lots, where bodies burned on rows of funeral pyres.

Coronavirus sufferers, many struggling for breath, flocked to a Sikh temple on the city’s outskirts, hoping to secure some of its limited supplies of oxygen. Hospitals in and around the Indian capital said oxygen remains scarce, despite commitments to step up supplies.

Police said a fire early on Wednesday at a hospital on the outskirts of the financial capital of Mumbai killed four people and injured several more.

The patients died while being shifted to other hospitals after the blaze and not due to burns, an official told India’s NDTV channel. They may have inhaled smoke after the fire, he added.

Last week a fire at a hospital treating Covid-19 patients and a leaking oxygen tank at another killed 22 people.

Meanwhile, members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP are holding political rallies to drum up support ahead of municipal elections despite a devastating second wave of coronavirus gripping the country.

Campaigning is underway in parts of southern Telangana state for municipal elections. Images tweeted by the BJP Telangana official account on Monday show crowds of people gathered at rallies in Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation, with many of them not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines.

India reported 352,991 new coronavirus cases — breaking yet another record for the highest single-day figure globally. Cases dipped slightly Tuesday, with 323,144 new patients reported.

The party’s Twitter account later took down some of the tweets and photos showing wider shots of large crowds gathered in the streets for the rallies.

Modi and the BJP have come under fire for holding several rallies in eastern West Bengal state with thousands in attendance between March and April ahead of state polls.