India Health VirusA Covid-19 coronavirus patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, under a tent installed along a roadside in Ghaziabad on April 28, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

India has surpassed the grim milestone of more than 200,000 deaths caused by the COVID-19 disease as a devastating second wave of infections overwhelms the South Asian nation’s under-funded healthcare system.

Hospitals across the country are reporting a shortage of medical oxygen and beds. Even crematoriums are running out of space, with funerals held in parking lots, and parks turned into temporary cremation grounds.

The World Health Organization says a variant of COVID-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in at least 17 countries.

Here are the latest updates:

‘Cannon fodder’: India’s COVID-hit medical students feel betrayed

Junior doctors are subjected to mammoth workloads, lack of pay, rampant exposure to the virus and complete academic neglect.

Cricket-IPL helps lift COVID-19 gloom

The Indian Premier League (IPL) will continue as scheduled, a senior Indian cricket board official told Reuters, despite fierce criticism of the popular Twenty20 competition being played in the midst of a national health crisis.

In a fevered social media debate over whether the IPL show should go on, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been accused of being “tone-deaf” for its stance.

“It’s probably more important now to hold IPL when there is so much negativity around,” the official told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

“We should not underestimate the power of sport to spread positivity. At least fans are absorbed in it at home. Otherwise many of them will step out without masks.

India’s IT companies scramble to handle surge

India’s giant IT firms in Bengaluru and other cities have set up COVID-19 “war-rooms” as they scramble to source oxygen, medicine and hospital beds for infected workers and maintain backroom operations for the world’s biggest financial firms.

Banks including Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered, who run much of their global back-office operations from large office parks in Bengaluru, Chennai or Hyderabad, have put in place the infrastructure to vaccinate thousands of employees and their families, when age restrictions are lifted on May 1.

Makeshift crematorium, oxygen shortage in Indian capital

In capital New Delhi, ambulances lined up for hours to take COVID-19 victims to makeshift crematorium facilities in parks and parking lots, where bodies burned on rows of funeral pyres.

Coronavirus sufferers, many struggling for breath, flocked to a Sikh temple on the city’s outskirts, hoping to secure some of its limited supplies of oxygen. Hospitals in and around the Indian capital said oxygen remains scarce, despite commitments to step up supplies.

Jitender Singh Shunty (in yellow turban) and his coworkers from the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal unload the body of a 57-year-old coronavirus disease victim from an ambulance for the cremation in New Delhi [File: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

Deadly fire in Maharashtra hospital

Police said a fire early on Wednesday at a hospital on the outskirts of the financial capital of Mumbai killed four people and injured several more.

The patients died while being shifted to other hospitals after the blaze and not due to burns, an official told India’s NDTV channel. They may have inhaled smoke after the fire, he added.

Last week a fire at a hospital treating COVID-19 patients and a leaking oxygen tank at another killed 22 people.

India sees record spike in daily cases, deaths

India has reported 360,960 new coronavirus cases – its biggest surge since the pandemic erupted more than a year ago – and the overall number of cases are now nearly at 18 million, according to health ministry data.

The country saw 3,293 deaths in the past 24 hours. It was the first time the daily death toll crossed the 3,000 mark.

India’s total death toll at 201,187 is now only behind that of the United States, Brazil and Mexico.


Vaccine registration opens for all adults

India on Wednesday opened its COVID-19 vaccine registration for all adults. From May 1, all Indians above the age of 18 are eligible to get their coronavirus shots.


Though the country’s vaccination drive for senior citizens began in January, less than 2 percent of its population has been vaccinated so far.

Despite India being the world’s biggest producer of vaccines – it’s called the “pharmacy of the world” – there are also concerns about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

Indian COVID-19 variant in 17 countries: WHO

The World Health Organization says a variant of COVID-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in at least 17 countries.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of the virus first found in India had been detected in over 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID a global, open-access database “from at least 17 countries”.

“Most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore,” the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

The WHO recently listed B.1.617 – which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics – as a “variant of interest”. But so far it has stopped short of declaring it a “variant of concern”.

Australians in IPL ‘anxious’ about getting home

Australians involved in the Indian Premier League (IPL) are “anxious” about how they will get home from the tournament as the COVID-19 crisis continues in India but they are not looking for any “free rides”, the head of the players’ union said.

Three Australian players have pulled out of the IPL but two remain stranded in India following Australia’s decision to suspend flights from the Asian nation until May 15. Nearly 40 Australians remain involved in the IPL as players, coaches, officials and commentators, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said they would not be allowed to jump the queue whenever repatriation flights resume.

The regular IPL season ends on May 23, with playoffs to follow before the final on May 30.

“As you’d imagine, they’re all pretty anxious,” Australian Cricketers’ Association Chief Executive Todd Greenberg told Sydney radio station 2GB. “They’re in probably one of the biggest hotspots that we’ve seen since COVID so we’re just trying to make sure that they’re all safe and secure and they can fulfil their commitments and … we can get them home as soon as we can.”

Benjamin Mensah

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