India’s cases overshoot 40m as US, Europe ease restrictions

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INDIA’S coronavirus caseload topped 40 million today as it struggles to contain a huge outbreak, in stark contrast to gradual re-openings in the United States and Europe.

  Rapid immunisation programmes in wealthier nations have helped suppress outbreaks, and the European Union was even looking at allowing vaccinated foreign tourists into the bloc as early as next month.

  That was a far cry from the nations still grappling with outbreaks, including India where more than 350,000 new cases were reported Tuesday, as a devastating wave of infections overwhelmed hospitals and depleted critical resources such as medical oxygen.

  With the government struggling, some young Indian volunteers have set up apps to crowdsource aid and are using social media to direct resources to people in need.

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  “Some of us do midnight to morning shifts, because the calls don’t stop at 3 am,” said Swadha Prasad, 17, who works long hours updating information, verifying the availability of supplies and fielding calls from frantic relatives seeking help.

  “We work very hard but we can’t save everyone,” said Prasad, her voice quavering as she recalled efforts to help an 80-year-old woman who died.

  The number of new cases has declined in recent days, however, having peaked at 402,000 on Friday.

  The South Asian nation’s plight has highlighted the threat still posed by the pandemic, which has already claimed more than 3.2 million lives worldwide.

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  A Rickshaw driver in the central Indian city of Bhopal, Mohammad Javed Khan, returned his vehicle into a makeshift ambulance after he saw people carrying patients to hospitals on their backs as they were too poor to afford one.

  “Even when (people) call ambulances, the ambulances are charging 5,000-10,000 rupees ($70-140),” said Khan, who sold his wife’s jewellery to equip the rickshaw with medical equipment.

  “How will a poor person be able to afford it? Especially during this pandemic when most people don’t have an income?” he queried.

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