India COVID cases top 20 million, halting cricket, prompting lockdown call

India COVID cases top 20 million, halting cricket, prompting lockdown call

India COVID cases top 20 million, halting cricket, prompting lockdown call Photo

India halted its hugely popular cricket league on Tuesday as COVID-19 infections surged past 20 million in the world’s second-most populous country and the opposition leader said a nationwide lockdown was now the only way out.

Cricket officials suspended the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) as the pandemic spirals out of control, with the country adding 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.

“While we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times,” the IPL said.

With 3.45 million active cases, India recorded 357,229 new infections over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 3,449 to 222,408, health ministry data showed.

"The only way to stop the spread of corona now is a full lockdown ... GOI’s inaction is killing many innocent people," opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to the government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modis government, widely criticised for allowing religious festivals and political gatherings attended by hundreds of thousands of largely unmasked people, is reluctant to impose a national lockdown for fear of the economic fallout, but several states have imposed social curbs.

The eastern state of Bihar ordered a lockdown until May 15, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said. With more than 100,000 infections, its death toll is nearing 3,000, government figures show.

The IPL tournament, with an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion, was being played without spectators to a huge television audience in the cricket-obsessed nation but has been severely criticized for continuing while the healthcare system is falling apart.

The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant of the coronavirus has swamped hospitals and depleted supplies of oxygen, while sufferers have died in ambulances and car parks.

Rows of funeral pyres set up in parks and other open spaces are being used to cremate the overflow of corpses. A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals seeking oxygen and invoking India’s constitutional right to protection of life.

A patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) receives treatment inside the casualty ward at a hospital in New Delhi, India, May 1, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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