India has recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll since the start of the pandemic – a day after it became the first country to see more than 400,000 new cases.
Its health ministry said 3,689 people had died in the past 24 hours.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with the Minister of Health on Sunday morning to take stock of the crisis.
Hospitals are struggling to treat patients amid a chronic shortage of beds and medical oxygen.
Amid the crisis, the vote count began Sunday for elections held in five states in March and April.
The results will be monitored for signs of how the pandemic has affected support for Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP.
What’s the latest?
India has recorded more than 19 million cases of the coronavirus – just behind the United States. It has also confirmed more than 215,000 deaths, although the actual toll is estimated to be much higher.
Experts cited low testing rates and the number of people dying at home, especially in rural areas, as contributing factors to the numbers being underestimated.
The country’s highest daily toll, also reported this week, was 3,645.
Brazil and the United States have both recorded daily tolls of more than 4,000 people during the pandemic.
In India, painful images of families begging for hospital beds and life-saving supplies have emerged for more than 10 days, while mortuaries and crematoriums remain overwhelmed.
Twelve people died at Delhi’s Batra Hospital on Saturday after running out of oxygen – for the second time in a week.
The Times of India newspaper reported 16 deaths in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh due to oxygen shortages at two hospitals and six in the Delhi suburb of Gurgaon.
The Delhi High Court has now said it will start punishing officials if vital supplies fail to reach hospitals.
“The water is overhead. Enough is enough, ”said judges Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Patil.
How is India doing on immunization?
All adults in India are now eligible for a coronavirus vaccine. But the planned launch of a nationwide campaign on Saturday failed as several states said they did not have enough doses to start vaccinating people between the ages of 18 and 44.
Despite being the world’s largest vaccine producer, the country suffers from an internal shortage and has temporarily suspended all AstraZeneca exports to meet domestic demand.
The health ministry said on Sunday that 84,599 people in the age group had received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
India uses two vaccines: the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (known locally as Covishield) and another made by the Indian company Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). The Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine was also approved, and the first 150,000 doses arrived on Saturday.
What are other countries doing to help?
Countries around the world have sent a flood of emergency medical supplies. As of Thursday, 40 countries had sent shipments.
The first of several US planes carrying oxygen cylinders, masks and rapid diagnostic tests arrived in Delhi on Friday.
“The link between the oldest democracy and the biggest continues to grow stronger,” the Indian Ministry of Health tweeted.
The United States had previously been criticized for banning the shipment of raw materials for vaccines overseas, limiting India’s ability to take further advantage of AstraZeneca. The measure was lifted last week.
A German military plane with 120 ventilators reached India on Saturday, while the UK also sent hundreds of medical equipment.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday that he would “always consider very carefully any request” to help India deal with the record spike in Covid cases.
But when asked whether the UK should suspend vaccination of younger and less vulnerable people to send doses overseas, Mr Raab said he had not received any requests from India. ” on this specific issue “.
Why is India not totally locked down?
The central government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown, which the prime minister called a “last resort”. Senior leaders fear the economic impact, after last year’s freeze, Indian production fell a record 24% in April-June from a year earlier.
The human cost could also be severe. Last year’s 68-day national lockdown saw millions of Indian migrant workers make arduous journeys to their home villages after becoming unemployed and strapped for cash.
The poor, especially malnourished children and pregnant women who depend on government programs, find it difficult to access benefits. Immunization programs were interrupted and people with serious illnesses found it difficult to access essential health services.
But several states and Union territories have implemented restrictions.
Odisha was the latest to announce a two-week lockdown, joining hard-hit Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal.
Other states, including the populous population of Uttar Pradesh, have nighttime curfews or weekend closures.
The Indian Express newspaper reports that the Indian Covid-19 task force, which advises the government, is pushing for a nationwide lockdown to help bring the devastating second wave under control.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease specialist, said on Saturday that an “immediate” shutdown of “a few weeks” could break the chain of transmission in India.
What about the elections?
On Sunday, election officials began counting votes in the states of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry.
Most votes were cast in March, but polls continued in some areas into April.
In West Bengal, long lines were seen outside voting booths this week as people voted in the final stages of elections despite the surge in Covid cases.
More than 1,000 observers are participating in the counting process, but are expected to produce a negative test result or prove they have been fully vaccinated, according to the Reuters news agency.
Mr Modi has been criticized for allowing people to gather for political rallies in March and April, with minimal social distancing and very few masks.