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West Bengal: India state elections go ahead as deaths hit record high

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West Bengal: India state elections go ahead as deaths hit a record high

West Bengal: People in the Indian state of West Bengal are voting in the final phase of elections despite soaring Covid cases. Long queues were seen outside polling booths, raising concerns. About the further spread of the virus amidst a deadly second wave.

Moreover, experts fear West Bengal could be the next epicenter of the virus, as has campaigning continued there. India reported 3,79,257 new infections on Thursday, the world’s highest single-day total. While cases in West Bengal rose by 17,000 on Wednesday – a record for the state.

The state has already seen seven phases of voting. West Bengal is one of the few where Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not have a majority of parliamentary seats. There has been a lot of criticism that he continued to hold large rallies there even as the virus began overwhelming the country.

West Bengal: India state elections go ahead as deaths hit a record high
Crematoriums are working throughout the night and using empty spaces like parks and car parks to build makeshift funeral pyres

While hospitals have been overwhelmed, oxygen is in critically low supply and crematoriums are operating non-stop. The overall death toll officially surpassed 2,00,000 on Wednesday, though experts believe the actual number could be much higher. It was the deadliest day so far, with 3,645 people succumbing to the coronavirus.

What about vaccines?

The government had said that all adults will be eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations from 1st May, with online registration opening from 28th April.

However, people on social media complained that they were not able to get slots because the website crashed soon after it opened. So far, India has been vaccinating health workers, front-line workers, and adults over the age of 45.

But less than 10% of the population has received an initial jab and there are concerns about meeting demand. Although India is one of the world’s biggest producers of Vaccines, it does not yet have the stock for the roughly 600 million people who will be eligible from 1st May.

West Bengal: India state elections go ahead as deaths hit a record high
Deaths on 17 June include historic deaths reclassified with coronavirus as the cause

The White House says the United States is redirecting its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India. Allowing it to make more than 20 million doses of the vaccine. Epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee says India must combine the immunization drive with a widespread lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.

Several parts of the country are under lockdown and curfew, including in the capital Delhi. The government of Maharashtra, which is home to the financial capital Mumbai, is considering extending its lockdown until mid-May. There is no lockdown or curfew in West Bengal state though.

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