India nears 20 million Covid cases as Europe eyes reopening
India's total coronavirus caseload neared 20 million Monday, in stark contrast to gradual reopenings in Europe and other wealthier parts of the world where rapid vaccination programmes have helped keep new cases down.
Highlighting the inequalities, the World Health Organization on Monday pleaded with the G7 group of wealthy nations to dig deep and fund the global Covid-19 recovery, warning the crisis cannot be resolved worldwide if they do not step up.
In India cases have soared by around eight million since the end of March, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi under growing pressure to take decisive action to reverse the surge. Meanwhile Europe is looking at easing travel restrictions on foreign tourists as early as next month, if they are fully vaccinated or come from a country with Covid under control.
Doctors in the resort state of Goa on India's western coast described hospitals that are overwhelmed by the spike in cases. "There are critical patients who have to be managed on trolleys and floors and kept on ventilators in critical Covid wards," the Goa Association of Resident Doctors said in a letter.
Clinics in the capital New Delhi have also sent urgent appeals for help. "Oxygen is a basic requirement of a hospital and a consistent supply has not been assured. We are constantly firefighting," the head of the Madhukar Rainbow Children's Hospital Dr Dinesh told the Indian Express daily.
Stung by defeat in a key state-level election and a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to rectify the oxygen situation in Delhi by midnight (1830 GMT), embattled Prime Minister Modi held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen Monday.
The Indian leader thanked the bloc for "mobilising quick support for India's fight against the second wave" as international aid has poured into the country. Germany and France over the weekend sent medical equipment including oxygen-generating plants.