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COVID in India: Cricket canceled as cases hit 20 million

The Indian Premier League cricket season has been halted indefinitely after several players tested positive for the virus. The country has surpassed 20 million confirmed infections.

Volunteers stand next to burning pyres of persons who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a crematorium ground in Giddenahalli village on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, May 2, 2021.

India's health system has been under immense strain

India surpassed another grim milestone as the total number of coronavirus infections reached 20 million on Tuesday.

The country's favorite hobby and the world's wealthiest cricket competition was also feeling the strain; the Indian Premier League announced on Tuesday that all play would be halted indefinitely after several players tested positive for the virus.

"The BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] does not want to compromise the safety of the players, support staff and other participants involved in organizing the IPL. This decision was taken keeping the safety, health and well-being of all stakeholders in mind," the IPL said in a statement.

The decision came after four IPL teams were affected by the virus. Some matches had already been rescheduled.

Opposition calls for lockdown

Over 350,000 new cases on Tuesday were reported as the opposition slammed the government’s handling of the pandemic.

"The only way to stop the spread of Corona now is a full lockdown," tweeted opposition leader and the president of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi. "GOI's inaction is killing many innocent people," he said, referring to the Government of India.

Despite calls for harsher restrictions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown reluctance in declaring a nationwide lockdown over possible repercussions on the flailing economy

However, several states have imposed strict lockdowns as the latest wave of the virus brings the country’s healthcare infrastructure to its knees. Many hospitals face a shortage of beds and supplies, especially medical oxygen, with citizens turning to social media to amplify calls for basic necessities.

Watch video 03:00

COVID-19: India curbs free speech during pandemic

Pandemic rages unchecked

With over 350,000 new cases, India became the second country — after the United States — to pass the grim milestone of 20 million infections. The death toll rose by 3,449 to stand at 222,408, according to data from the health ministry.

The latest numbers show a decline after infections peaked at nearly 402,000 on Friday, but experts remain skeptical about the reliability of the numbers.

Sluggish vaccination campaign 

Over the weekend, India began a mass vaccination campaign to inoculate all citizens over the age of 18. However, daily COVID-19 inoculations have dropped sharply from an all-time high reached early April as local companies struggle to increase supplies and imports are limited.

India has stepped up outreach to foreign vaccine makers by reaching out to Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to sell their vaccines to the country. 

Pfizer said on Monday it is in fresh talks with the Indian government over an "expedited approval pathway" for the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine.

On Saturday, India said it received 150,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and that "millions" more would arrive.

Questions over foreign aid

As India struggles to combat the virus, international aid continued to arrive in the form of medical supplies.

A German military aircraft with 120 ventilators reached India on Saturday, as plans were being made for additional flights with more supplies to help India cope with the catastrophic effects of the pandemic. 

India has also received oxygen concentrators from the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Uzbekistan and other countries.

However, it remains unclear whether any supplies have been distributed to the states that are responsible for pandemic management on the ground. 

Watch video 02:01

India's hospitals plead for oxygen supplies

see/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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