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India nears 20 million Covid cases

 India nears 20 million Covid cases  Family members and relatives perform the last rites amid the funeral pyres of victims who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus during mass cremation held at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 27, 2021. (AFP/Prakash Singh)
AFP
New Delhi, India   ●   Mon, May 3, 2021 2021-05-03 18:55 14 0920e6703081f028872405a52644afa2 2 World India,Covid,infection,aid,US,Narendra-Modi Free

India's total Covid-19 caseload neared 20 million and oxygen shortages exacerbated a devastating second wave on Monday, as the EU proposed new rules that could allow travellers who are fully vaccinated to enter the bloc.

Cases have soared by around eight million since the end of March, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi under growing pressure to take decisive action to reverse the surge.

Scores died over the weekend in hospitals hit by shortages that have forced clinics in the capital New Delhi to send urgent appeals for help on social media.

"Oxygen is a basic requirement of a hospital and a consistent supply has not been assured. We are constantly firefighting," the head of the Madhukar Rainbow Children's Hospital Dr Dinesh told the Indian Express daily.

The crisis had already raised questions about whether the Indian Premier League should go ahead, though cricket authorities, who stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if it is halted, have insisted it is helping to raise spirits.

But on Monday, the league was forced into its first coronavirus postponement this season, after two players tested positive despite the tournament's bio-secure "bubble".

The match -- between the Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore -- was called off just hours before its start in Ahmedabad after Varun Chakaravarthy and Sandeep Warrier became infected.

Amid severe shortages, India's federal and state authorities have been scrambling to get extra oxygen to hospitals, including by sourcing it from the steel industry and sending special "Oxygen Express" trains. International aid has also poured into the country.

Germany and France this weekend sent medical equipment including oxygen-generating plants.

"Out there the hospitals are full. People are sometimes dying in front of the hospitals. They have no more oxygen," German ambassador Walter J. Lindner said.

Stung by defeat in a key state-level election and a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to rectify the oxygen situation in Delhi by midnight (1830 GMT), embattled Prime Minister Modi held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen Monday. 

The pair discussed "the prevailing Covid-19 situation in India and the EU", according to a statement from Modi's office, with the Indian leader thanking the bloc for "mobilizing quick support for India's fight against the second wave".