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DEHRADUN, India—After India’s most-populous state went ahead with local elections last month, a wave of illness swept through schoolteachers who were deployed by the government to work at the polls. Many of them died, without access to healthcare or a coronavirus test.

In the run-up to the elections, Arunoday Prakash Mishra was summoned for training, packed into small rooms with dozens of others as they received instructions on how to manage voting booths. A few days later, after reporting for duty at a polling site, the 52-year-old high-school teacher developed a fever and sore throat. Then he had trouble breathing, his brother said.

When Mr. Mishra returned home later that day, he looked very sick. His family took him to several hospitals. None had room for him, overstretched by a constant stream of Covid-19 patients.

India is recording around 4,000 deaths a day in the world’s fastest-growing Covid-19 surge, but public-health experts say the official numbers don’t reflect the toll, with hospitals and testing sites overwhelmed and many dying at home. Hard-hit areas, including the national capital New Delhi, continue to battle shortages of oxygen, medicines and hospital beds. Crematoriums and burial grounds in many parts of the country are struggling to cope.

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