India's COVID-19 surge intensifies

India medical team
India medical team

Sumit Saraswat/Flickr cc

India's COVID crisis continues to deepen, with nearly 300,000 cases reported today—by far its biggest single-day total—and the country's leader addressed the nation to reassure the public about the government response, which includes efforts to secure more oxygen.

In other global developments, Europe's drug safety group today probed reports of blood clots in some who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, concluding that a rare event warning is needed, but benefits of using the vaccine still outweigh the risks.

India takes multiple steps to tackle onslaught

Health officials have warned that hospitals in New Delhi could run out of oxygen by tomorrow, and as cases surge to unprecedented levels in the world's second most populous country, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi today addressed the nation. He said the oxygen demand is felt in many parts of the country, and federal, state, and private groups are working to bolster the supply, according to the Times of India.

Modi also said efforts are underway to increase hospital bed capacity, with large dedicated COVID-19 facilities under construction in some cities. However, he urged India's states to only consider lockdowns as a last resort and opt for establishing "micro containment zones."

In other steps, the government opened vaccination to all people older than 18 and is taking steps to increase the vaccine supply by waiving import fees, according to Reuters.

Indian experts have said a combination of social mixing, relaxed measures, and more transmissible variants—including B1617, first seen in India—are fueling the country's massive second surge. Political rallies in some states and a large Hindu religious gathering on the banks of the Ganges River in the city of Hardiwar are also playing a role in virus spread, and the Modi's political party announced it will no longer hold large rallies in West Bengal state and will cap attendance at 500, according to CNN.

EMA recommends warning for J&J vaccine

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) today said its safety committee reviewed reports of blood clots with low blood platelets today in people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine and concluded that a warning should be added to the product information as very rare side effects. However, they added that the vaccine's overall benefits outweigh the risks.

The group weighed all available evidence, including eight reports from the United States. As of Apr 13, more than 7 million people have received the vaccine in the United States. The EMA recently conducted a similar review for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, for which similar rare events were reported.

More global headlines

  • Iran, the hardest hit country in the Middle East, reported another record single-day high for cases today, according to CNN.

  • Israel's health ministry said early indications suggest the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is at least partly effective against the B1617 variant first identified in India, according to Reuters. The country has recorded eight cases, seven of which were in travelers.

  • The group Reporters Without Borders said in an annual report that the pandemic has led to a deterioration in people's access to information, with governments blocking reports critical to their COVID responses.

  • The global total today topped 142 million cases and is at 142,391,952 cases with 3,035,163 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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