India on Monday reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 13th straight day to take its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, as scientists predicted a peak in infections in the coming days.
With 368,147 new cases over the previous 24 hours, India's total infections stood at 19.93 million, while total fatalities rose by 3,417 to 218,959, according to the Health Ministry.
Medical experts say real numbers across the country of 1.35 billion may be five to 10 times higher than the official tally, Reuters reported.
India's coronavirus cases may peak between Monday and Wednesday, according to a mathematical model from a team of scientists advising the government, a few days earlier than a previous estimate as the virus has spread faster than expected.
India's coronavirus cases may peak between Monday and Wednesday, according to a mathematical model from a team of scientists advising the government, a few days earlier than a previous estimate as the virus has spread faster than expected
It came after leaders of 13 opposition parties penned a letter to urge the central government to launch a free vaccination drive as well as ensure an uninterrupted flow of oxygen to all hospitals. Several hospital authorities over the weekend sought court intervention over oxygen supplies in New Delhi, where a lockdown has been extended by a week to contain the wave of infections.
"Water has gone above the head. Enough is enough," said the New Delhi High Court, adding it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals were not delivered.
India's daily new virus cases began rising past 100,000 in late March, and rose above 300,000 daily new cases on April 21, collapsing India's battered healthcare system.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been criticized over the handling of the surge, which has pushed India's already fragile and underfunded healthcare system to the brink. Massive election rallies organized by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and other parties as well as a giant Hindu festival on the banks of the Ganges may have exacerbated the spread, experts said, adding that new variants could also be increasing cases.
READ MORE: India’s COVID catastrophe
Modi's party on Sunday suffered a resounding election defeat in a key state, West Bengal, failing to dislodge its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The BJP retained power in northeastern Assam state but lost in two southern states.
India opened its vaccination campaign to people ages 18-44 on Saturday. Since January, 10 percent of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5 percent have received both required doses.
At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions to try and stem infections, but Modi's government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown, concerned about the economic impact.
"In my opinion, only a national stay at home order and declaring a medical emergency will help to address the current healthcare needs," Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan, said on Twitter.
Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.
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