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India’s health ministry reported 4,454 new COVID-19 deaths on Monday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 303,720 since the pandemic began last March. India is only the third nation to top 300,000 deaths, joining the U.S. and Brazil, though the real number of COVID-19 fatalities and cases is widely believed to be much higher than the official count. India also recorded 222,315 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, down from more than 400,000 new cases a day in May but still very high.
India’s first big wave of COVID-19 put a massive strain on the country’s underfunded health care system. “In the capital, New Delhi, residents have died at home with no oxygen as hospitals exhausted limited supplies,” The Associated Press reports. “In Mumbai, COVID-19 patients have died in crowded hospital corridors. In rural villages, fever and breathlessness took people before they were even tested for coronavirus. While the megacities have seen signs of improvement in recent days, the virus isn’t finished with India by any means.”
Along with overwhelmed hospitals and deadly oxygen shortages, India has struggled to procure enough COVID-19 vaccines. The world’s largest producer of vaccines, India has inoculated only about 41.6 million people, or just 3.8 percent of its population, and states are canceling vaccination appointments amid supply shortfalls. Physicians are swamped with patients, and Indians are getting information, or misinformation, from friends and neighbors.
“Doctors throughout the Indian diaspora, including in the United States, are trying to fill this void from afar through both organized and unofficial channels,” The Washington Post reports. “Some are sharing with their Indian counterparts lessons learned on the front lines of America’s coronavirus surges. Others are making video calls to friends and relatives to check on their breathing and the care they’re receiving.”