India’s capital New Delhi on Sunday extended its lockdown as the country’s COVID-19 crisis grew with infections and deaths hitting record highs.
The announcement came as the healthcare system struggled to cope with the huge surge, with reports of severe oxygen and medicine shortages and patients’ families pleading for help on social media.
The vast nation of 1.3 billion people recorded 349,691 fresh cases and 2,767 deaths in the last 24 hours — the highest since the start of the pandemic.
The northern megacity — home to 20 million people and the worst hit in India — had imposed a weeklong lockdown on Monday.
“We have decided to extend the lockdown by one week,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.
“The havoc of corona(virus) continues and there is no respite. Everyone is in favour of extending the lockdown.”
Delhi on Saturday reported just over 24,000 new cases — with more than one-quarter of those tested returning positive results — and a record-high 357 deaths.
The country has administered almost 141 million vaccine shots so far, but experts say the mass inoculation programme needs to be significantly stepped up to combat the worsening outbreak.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a monthly radio address Sunday that India had been shaken by a “storm”, and called on people to get vaccinated and not “get swayed by any rumour about the vaccines”.
There’s been growing criticism of Modi’s government over allegations it was caught underprepared ahead of the surge.
On Sunday, Twitter confirmed it withheld dozens of tweets critical of the unfolding crisis at the request of the Indian government.
The social media giant said the tweets were blocked in India after a legal demand from New Delhi, months after similar action was taken against comments critical of the government’s new agriculture laws that sparked violent protests.
Some tweets included comments, including from regional opposition lawmakers, about the overwhelmed healthcare system.