New COVID-19 cases in India surged to 58 097 on Wednesday, a doubling of the daily tally over the past four days, as health experts called for preparations to ensure hospitals are not overwhelmed by a new wave of patients.
While doctors fretted, politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appeared less concerned by the rising case numbers with many of them holding rallies ahead of assembly elections in several states.
Infections have been increasing sharply in cities, with the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the virus becoming dominant in places like New Delhi, authorities said.
The country spent Christmas under restrictions to curb the increase in cases:
India has confirmed nearly 2 000 cases of the variant with many more expected, lending urgency to calls for hospitals to get ready.
“We expect our country; whose population is around four times (of the USA) to be somewhere around 20-25 lakhs (2-2.5 million) cases per day,” said Dr. Niroj Mishra.
“We should be prepared for that one,” he added.
Authorities, especially in the Indian capital New Delhi, have repeatedly said only those who actually need round-the-clock monitoring should go to the hospital while others should recover at home.
Delhi tightened up virus mitigation measures on Tuesday, ordering people to stay home on the weekends, in addition to a night curfew.
Health ministry officials have said COVID-safety measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing apply to all, including politicians, though few seem to heed the advice.
India has had more than 35 million cases, the second-highest tally after the United States. The health ministry reported 534 new deaths on Wednesday, taking that toll to 482 551.