The total number of Covid-19 cases in India rose more than 25 million infections on Tuesday, while daily deaths hit a new record, a crisis exacerbated by the strongest cyclone on record on the nation’s northwest coast, which disrupted vaccine deployment in two major states.
Tropical cyclone Tauktae, with wind speeds comparable to a high-end Category 3 hurricane, crashed into the coast of Maharashtra and Gujarat on Monday.
The state of Gujarat, which suffered the brunt of the cyclone, was forced to evacuate 200,000 people from its coastal districts late Monday and moved them to shelters.
State officials say all evacuees have been screened for Covid-19 and efforts are being made to maintain social distancing in shelters; however, the scale of evacuation is likely to make this a major challenge.
The severe storm has impacted the state’s health care system, which was already reeling from a covid-19 surge as hospitals wait for backup generators to keep power running and additional oxygen supplies, according to Reuters.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said oxygen manufacturing and distribution have not been disrupted by the storm, adding that the state has managed to restore power to the 16 Covid-designated hospitals that faced a power outage.
Gujarat also suspended vaccinations for two days, while India’s financial center, Mumbai, the city most affected by the pandemic so far, did the same for one day.
4,329. That’s the total number of Covid-19 deaths India reported on Tuesday, its highest single-day count of the entire pandemic. The official number of deaths in the country now stands at 278,719, which many experts say is a massive insufficient count.
Gujarat’s neighboring state, Maharashtra, managed to avert the worst of the cyclone, yet reported 1,000 new Covid-19 deaths overnight, higher than any other state. While the situation in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra has stabilized somewhat, the rest of the state continues to report a high number of new coronavirus infections. The rate of vaccination in the state has fallen from 26 million doses administered in the first week of April to 18 million doses last week, according to India’s official vaccine tracker. The state government has largely blamed this depression on the lack of adequate vaccine supplies that it hopes to remedy by purchasing vaccines directly from vaccine manufacturers.
However, the state’s official death count has been questioned by the state media, and the local government has been accused of suppressing data. An investigation by the Gujarati Newspaper Divya Bhaskar found that the state had issued about 123,000 death certificates between March 1 and May 10. By comparison, the state had issued about 58,000 death certificates during the same period in 2020, suggesting about 65,000 excess deaths. However, for the period from 1 March to 10 May, the Government of Gujarat had officially reported only 4,218 Covid-19-related deaths. The Hindu had previously reported discrepancies in death figures related to the Gujarat pandemic, as several deaths were attributed to comorbidities rather than Covid-19. Shaken by the accusations, the state has blamed an increase in duplicate records on the high number of death certificates that were issued in the past two months.