COVID spreads to rural India as deaths once more rise above 4,000 By Reuters

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© Reuters. A woman with difficulty breathing is being treated at a clinic set up by a villager amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the village of Parsaul, Greater Noida, northern Uttar Pradesh state, India, on May 22. 2021. REUTERS

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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s COVID-19 outbreak has stabilized in parts of the country, a government official said, but deaths rose by 4,194 on Saturday and infections spread to rural areas where public health services are scarce and already congested .

India reported more than 400,000 infections a day in early May, but the numbers have gradually decreased. On Saturday, government data showed 257,299 new cases.

Active cases in the richest state of Maharashtra and Karnataka, home of the Bengaluru technology center, and the coastal state of Kerala have fallen in the past two weeks, Health Department official Lav Agarwal told reporters.

Daily numbers in states like West Bengal, which recently completed state elections, and the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are on the rise, he said.

Given the overcrowding of hospitals, the overcrowded urban health system and the lack of vaccines, experts have warned India that a third wave of infections could occur in the coming months.

“While it has stabilized (spread of the coronavirus) in many parts of the country and overall pollution has been reduced, we still have a long way to go,” said Dr. VK Paul, part of a federal government-19 management COVID panel, told a press conference.

“For the first time we saw rural areas hit by this pandemic.”

The total number of infections in the country was 26.3 million, the second highest in the world after the United States, while the total death toll in the country was 295,525.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state authorities have received widespread criticism for failing to counter the pandemic as many officials prepare for another upturn.

The slow rate of vaccination in the country is another major concern.

The New Delhi prime minister said city authorities have been forced to stop vaccinating for anyone between the ages of 18 and 44 as supplies have run out.

The Prime Minister of Andhra Pradesh urged Modi to help with supplies as the state did not have supplies to vaccinate anyone under 45 years of age.

The number of cases also rose in neighboring Nepal, which said it had added 8,591 infections within 24 hours on Saturday, bringing the total over half a million mark.

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