May 19, 2021 — India reported the coronavirus pandemic’s highest single daily death toll on Wednesday — 4,529 — as the virus raged through the country’s rural regions.
The previous deadliest day for a single country was recorded in the United States in January, when 4,468 people died. Many experts believe the true number of deaths in India is even higher as evidence has emerged across the country of large numbers of people dying from COVID-19 who have not been officially counted, The New York Times reported.
The number of new cases was equally bleak: India reported 267,000 new cases on Tuesday, pushing the official case tally past 25 million, the Times said.
Meanwhile, British scientists have raised alarms about the coronavirus variant first found in India, the Washington Post reported. They advised the government of that country in technical papers that it could be as much as 50 percent more contagious than the already more infectious British variant that became dominant in many countries this spring.
Much remains unknown about the new Indian variant — known as B.1.617.2 — partly because Indian health officials have done so little genetic sequencing and cannot say how much it is responsible for the devastating outbreak there, the Post reported.
But Britain runs a consortium of genetic sequencing laboratories that are constantly on the lookout for new “variants of concern,” and the arrival of the Indian variant has scientists and government officials in that country very concerned, the Post said.
While infections seem to be slowing down slightly in Indian cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, the virus is now spreading like wildfire through the country, the Times said. Testing there is limited, and the medical infrastructure is overwhelmed, the newspaper said.
Hospitals in India remain short of supplies, and the country’s vaccination campaign has been slow. The death toll has remained over 4,000 for several days, suggesting that even if new infections are dropping in urban centers, those infected earlier in the outbreak are now dying.
The virus has not spared India’s doctors and medical workers either.
More than 1,000 doctors have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year. The rate of deaths has been much higher, and the age of victims often much younger, since the second wave of infections started this spring, the Times reported. More than 260 doctors have died since April, according to the Indian Medical Association.