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India’s coronavirus case total nears 20 million as international aid pours in

India reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day on Monday, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,417.

According to health ministry data, with 368,147 new cases over the past 24 hours, India’s total infections stand at 19.93 million, while total fatalities are 218,959.

Medical experts say real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion maybe five to 10 times higher than the official tally.

Combined with surges in Brazil and Canada, the global death toll is approaching 3.2 million despite many nations ramping up their vaccination drives.

Hospitals have filled to capacity, medical oxygen supplies have run short, and morgues and crematoriums have been swamped as the country deals with the surge in cases.

At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions to try and stem infections. Still, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown, concerned about the economic impact.

Anthony Fauci, the top US pandemic advisor, said in comments published Saturday that the whole of India should go into lockdown to fight this wave, an opinion shared by experts.

“In my opinion, only a national stay-at-home order and declaring a medical emergency will help to address the current healthcare needs,” Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan, said on Twitter.

“The # of active cases is accumulating, not just the daily new cases. Even the reported numbers state there are around 3.5M active cases.”

The spike in infections is India’s biggest crisis since Mr. Modi took office in 2014. Mr. Modi has been criticized for not taking steps earlier to curb the spread and letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies in five states during March and April.

In early March, a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government warned Indian officials of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters.

Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government did not seek to impose significant restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

It remains to be seen how his handling of the crisis might affect Mr. Modi or his party politically. The next general election is due in 2024. Mr. Modi’s party was defeated in India’s West Bengal state in results declared on Sunday, although it won in the neighboring state of Assam.

On Sunday, leaders of 13 opposition parties signed a letter urging Mr. Modi to immediately launch free national vaccination and prioritize oxygen supply to hospitals and health centers. Long queues were seen at vaccination centers in Indian cities this weekend, with people desperate to be inoculated against a disease that has overwhelmed the healthcare system as well as crematoriums and graveyards.

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