The US has told its citizens to leave India as soon as possible as the country battles a devastating coronavirus wave and medical services rapidly deteriorate.
The overall death toll in India officially surpassed 200,000 on Wednesday and the country reported 379,257 new infections on Thursday, the world’s highest single-day total. Yet it is widely accepted that the actual numbers are actually far higher.
The US embassy warned that “access to all types of medical care is becoming severely limited” adding that some US citizens are reporting being denied entry to hospitals due to a lack of space.
In the advisory, US citizens were told “not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so”.
“US citizens who wish to depart India should take advantage of available commercial transportation options now,” it said.
The Level 4 “do not travel” advisory is the highest of its kind issued by the Department of State.
The US is also sending more than US$100 million in medical supplies to India, including almost one million instant tests.
The White House said the US is also transferring its own order of supplies needed to make the AstraZeneca vaccine, so allowing India to make more than 20 million doses for its own use.
The Indian government has welcomed what it called an “outpouring of solidarity” from around the world, with more than 40 countries pledging urgently needed equipment and supplies.
Saudi Arabia has sent 80 metric tonnes of oxygen to India, Al Arabiya reported.
Despite the ongoing national crisis, the state of West Bengal has been voting in the final phase of elections and long queues have been seen outside polling booths, raising concerns about the virus spreading further and faster.
Experts fear West Bengal could be the next epicentre. Cases rose there by 17,000 on Wednesday – a state record.
The state has already gone through seven phases of voting. West Bengal is one of the few states where Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not have a majority of parliamentary seats.
Modi has been criticised for continuing to hold rallies there as the virus began overwhelming the country.