India virus cases hit 24m mark; govt working on war footing: PM

India virus cases hit 24m mark; govt working on war footing: PM

Modi said his government was "on a war footing" to try to contain it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded the alarm over the rapid spread of COVID-19 through India's vast countryside on Friday, as 4,000 people died from the virus for the third straight day and total infections crossed 24 million.

India is in the grip of the highly transmissible B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus, first detected there and now appearing across the globe.

Modi said his government was "on a war footing" to try to contain it.

"The outbreak is reaching rural areas with great speed," he said, addressing farmers in a virtual conference.

"I want to once again warn all ... those who live in villages about corona."

India virus cases hit 24m mark; govt working on war footing: PM
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Although about two-thirds of Indians live in rural towns and villages where healthcare facilities are limited, it was the first time Modi has specifically referred to the virus's spread through the countryside since a second wave erupted in February.

"All departments of the government, all resources, our armed forces, our scientists, everyone is working day and night to counter COVID-19, together," he said.

Health ministry data recorded 4,000 deaths and 343,144 new infections over the last 24 hours, below last week's peak of 414,188.

Total infections since the pandemic struck India more than a year ago crossed 24 million, with 262,317 dead.

Experts say the true figures are much higher, with a lack of access to tests and treatment meaning many cases go uncounted.

Medical journal The Lancet said restrictions on movement along with international support measures were urgently needed to stem "an unprecedented public health crisis".

Modi has been under pressure to impose a national lockdown, though on Thursday the president of the Public Health Foundation of India questioned whether that would be effective in India.

Modi allowed all Indian adults to request vaccines from May 1.

But while India is the world's largest vaccine producer, the huge demand has left it low on stocks and vaccinations have slowed down.

As of Friday, it had fully vaccinated just over 39.4 million people, or around 2.9% of the population.

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