Alarming photos have emerged from India of thousands packed tightly into streets despite the nation's overwhelming Covid-19 crisis.
Political rallies have continued to take place in the virus-ravaged nation despite its surging case total which on Wednesday saw its highest daily increase of more than 360,000 – yet another world record. It also surpassed 200,000 recorded deaths however it is feared the total is much higher.
Images of large crowds gathering at rallies in recent weeks in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party Bharatiya Janata Party during local elections have been widely condemned, with author Kapil Komireddi branding the decision to pursue a campaign as "murderously reckless".
He shared photos from the official Twitter page of the BJP in the southern state of Telangana which reveal supporters ignoring social distancing and some without masks.
"Political leaders are themselves responsible for the resurgence by allowing the packed rallies," former World Health Organisation official Subhash Salunke told the Times of India.
India's daunting second wave which took off in early March coincided with the announcement of assembly election dates in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry, the publication reported.
Mr Modi has faced widespread criticism for prioritising politics over science.
“Just in case if you thought your Prime Minister has become sensitive and sympathetic for COVID deaths," Aam Aadmi Party politician Vinay Mishra said as he tweeted further images of the Telangana rally.
Dr Navjot Dahiya, the vice-president of the Indian Medical Association, branded Mr Modi a "superspreader".
The Madras High Court said the Election Commission of India (ECI) was "singularly" responsible for the nation's second wave and officials could potentially face murder charges, The Tribune India reported.
Widespread lockdowns needed, expert warns
Only about 9 per cent of India's population have received one vaccine dose since its campaign began in January with health workers and then the elderly.
Epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee said India must combine the immunisation drive with a widespread lockdown to slow the spread.
"At this point, lives are so much more important than livelihoods," the University of Michigan professor said on Twitter.
"Provide assistance to the poor, but please lock down and vaccinate."
Delhi is under a lockdown until next week and the government of the western state of Maharashtra, home to financial capital Mumbai said it was considering extending its lockdown until mid-May.
The Modi government, which imposed a severe lockdown on the country when the pandemic struck last year, has opposed such a measure because of the risk to an economic recovery that was under way before the second wave struck.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.