India passes 300,000 COVID-19 deaths: health ministry

Published May 24, 2021, 12:16 PM

by Agence-France-Presse

New Delhi, India — India said Monday it had passed more than 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, the third country after the United States and Brazil to hit figure as a huge wave of infections overwhelms the healthcare system.

This picture taken on May 8, 2021 shows employees of Michael Undertakers and Ambulance Services, seen wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) suits, unloading a coffin from their vehicle during the burial of a Covid-19 coronavirus victim at a Christian cemetery in Pali village near Faridabad. As India grapples with a mounting coronavirus death toll, new services ranging from specialist funeral firms, Bollywood film set cleaners and low-budget deliverymen are easing the pain and making a living. (Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The South Asian nation’s toll now stands at 303,720 after adding 50,000 deaths in just under two weeks, as the total number of infections rose above 26.7 million, health ministry data showed.

India has been hitting record single-day rises in infections and fatalities in recent weeks amid the brutal surge.

It reported 4,454 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, the second-highest daily toll since reaching a record 4,529 on Wednesday.

Many experts believe the real number is much higher, particularly as the disease spreads beyond major cities into rural areas where the majority of the 1.3 billion population lives and where health facilities and record-keeping is poor.

The wave has overwhelmed not just hospitals with patients and led to a severe shortage of oxygen and critical drugs.

Harrowing images of long queues for funerals and makeshift pyres have also emerged from crematoriums and cemeteries.

Bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims have meanwhile been seen floating down the holy Ganges river or buried in shallow graves.