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Graph reveals troubling problem in country crippled by outbreak

As India's Covid-19 crisis reaches new heights, one vital statistic has begun to fall.

Unfortunately for the virus-ravaged nation, it's the wrong one.

Vaccine uptake across India has plummeted in recent weeks despite the nation's daily cases continuing to set new records. An unrivalled 412,262 new cases and 3,980 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours.

An alarming graph shared by BBC statistician Shadab Nazmi shows the uptake has more than halved to around two million vaccines a day. While on the surface such a figure seems impressive, it's a fraction of its 1.4 billion population.

While India is the world's biggest vaccine maker, it is struggling to produce enough doses. Its two current vaccine producers will take two months or more to boost monthly output to more than 110 million doses from 70-80 million.

At a meeting with his top officials on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed that Indian states must keep up vaccination rates and that healthcare workers involved in the inoculation campaign must not be diverted to other tasks, the government said.

In an effort to speed up the rollout, states and private health care providers can purchase the vaccines directly from manufacturers but experts say it has led to counter-productive competition and has posed further complications.

Modi's government welcomed US President Joe Biden's announcement that he would support waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccinations – a concept India peddled more than six months ago.

Such a waiver would make vaccines more widely available, although it could take months for the World Trade Organisation to hammer out any deal.

India reaching breaking point

Modi has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave, after religious festivals and political rallies drew tens of thousands of people in recent weeks and became "super spreader" events.

Several Indian states have imposed various levels of social restrictions to try to stem infections, but the federal government has resisted imposing a national lockdown.

The southern state of Kerala announced on Thursday it will impose nine days of curbs on movement from Saturday.

The fiancee of a person who died of COVID-19 breaks down during cremation in Gauhati, India, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Coronavirus cases in India are surging faster than anywhere else in the world. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)
The fiancee of a person who died of COVID-19 breaks down during cremation in Gauhati. Source: AP

Government data says more than 21 million have been infected and the overall death toll stands at 230,168. Yet experts say those figures are vastly underreported.

In the office of a Hindu crematorium in Delhi, the floor and shelves were overflowing with earthen pots, plastic packets and steel containers filled with the ashes of people who have died from COVID-19.

Practising Hindus collect the ashes of the dead a few days after the funeral for immersion in a river or sea, one of the rituals that they believe lead to salvation of the soul.

"Our lockers are full. We cannot store any more ashes. We used to get around 40 COVID-19 bodies a day. We are now telling relatives to take the ashes with them on the same day," Pankaj Sharma, a manager at the crematorium, told Reuters.

With Delhi running short of ambulances, authorities have teamed up with a non-profit organisation to turn some of the city's ubiquitous three-wheeled auto rickshaws into makeshift ambulances for COVID-19 patients.

With Reuters

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