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India faces Covid crisis as second wave sends infections spiraling

The #ResignModi hashtag was the top trend on Twitter in India — days after the prime minister urged people to vote for his BJP in person in “record numbers.”
Image: People bury the bodies of victims who died due to Covid-19, at a graveyard in New Delhi, India
The bodies of people who died of Covid-19 are buried in a graveyard in New Delhi. Hospitals across the country are reporting severe oxygen shortages and a shortage of beds, with intensive care units running out of space. Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being accused of bungling India’s response to the Covid-19 crisis amid a devastating second wave of infections that is killing hundreds a day and sending hospitals into crisis across the nation.

As infections spiral, officials are allowing religious festivals and election rallies attended by thousands to continue.

The #ResignModi hashtag was the top trend on Twitter in India on Monday — two days after the prime minister urged people to vote for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in person in “record numbers” for the state assembly election in the eastern state of West Bengal. Tens of thousands attended Modi’s rally in the state Saturday, as millions grapple with a record spike in Covid-19 cases that have sent hospitals to breaking point.

“I can see a sea of masses. I haven’t seen a rally like this,” Modi said to his supporters at the rally.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government released a statement praising India’s vaccination drive, highlighting that the country is the “fastest country across the world” to administer 120 million doses.Diptendu Dutta / AFP - Getty Images

Also Monday, India reported 273,810 new Covid-19 cases — the highest single-day figure so far, according to data from the Indian Ministry of Health. The country registered 1,619 coronavirus deaths in one day — a record high — bringing the total to 178,769.

India, the world’s second largest country by population, has registered the second highest number of Covid-19 cases, with more than 15 million people infected. Only the United States has reported more infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Amid the ongoing crisis, hospitals across the country are reporting severe oxygen shortages and a shortage of beds, with intensive care units running out of space, while vaccine supplies have also fallen short.

Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal said that oxygen has “become an emergency” in the city.

“Rather than increasing supply, our normal supply has been sharply reduced and Delhi’s quota has been diverted to other states,” he tweeted Sunday.

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Fewer than 100 critical care beds were available in the city of more than 20 million people, Kejriwal said during a news conference Sunday, according to Reuters.

Kejriwal imposed a six-day lockdown in New Delhi on Monday, to prevent the collapse of the capital’s health system.

"Delhi's health system has reached its limits. I don't say that the system has collapsed but it has reached its limits,” he said.

Modi’s government released a statement praising India’s vaccination drive Sunday, highlighting that the country is the “fastest country across the world” to administer 120 million doses.

In January, India started the world’s largest vaccination drive, with more than 300 million shots planned. However only 14.3 million people — just over 1 percent of India’s population — have been fully vaccinated to date, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The country’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs came under criticism after reportedly releasing an internal memo last week that urged its staff to practice Simha Yogic Kriya, a form of yoga.

According to local news outlet The Tribune India, the ministry said that practicing the form of yoga will “boost immunity” and “deal with the present crisis in a positive manner.”

NBC News has contacted the ministry for comment but not confirmed the report.

India’s rise in cases has come as millions of Hindu devotees simultaneously flocked to the northern state of Uttarakhand for the Kumbh Mela festival, defying social distancing rules to perform prayers and rituals.

The monthslong festival, which takes place approximately every 12 years, is one of the most auspicious Hindu festivals. Pilgrims attend prayers and “wash their sins” away in the Ganges River, which is considered sacred to Hindus.