India has jumped to the third most heavily infected country in the world as the nation surpassed 4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus Saturday.
It reported nearly 70,000 deaths, trailing behind the United States with 6.2 million cases and more than 188,000 deaths and Brazil, which reported nearly 4.1 million cases and over 125,000 deaths, according to John Hopkins University data.
The south Asian country initially saw the majority of its coronavirus cases in the metropolitan areas, but the virus has spread to rural villages where case counts are now surging — weighing heavily on an already overwhelmed health care system.
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With one of the largest global populations, the 1.4 billion-person country is seeing a massive number of confirmed cases, months into the pandemic.
India enforced strict lockdown measures in March, which lasted for two months, allowing health care workers to plan on how to manage the crowded nation’s impending coronavirus surge.
The western Maharashtra state was hit the hardest, along with four other southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka – but nearly every state in the country has reported cases, and surges are now happening elsewhere.
India added 86,432 new cases in the last 24-hours, contributing to the reported 4,023,179 case load.
The Health Ministry has reported more than 1 million tests conducted a day, but health experts fear that due to a reliance on antigens or viral protein screening, testing results may be inaccurate.
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Antigen testing is a more affordable process that allows for faster results, but it is also reportedly less accurate – meaning false negatives could be allowing people to continue to spread the virus.
Uttar Pradesh is reportedly India’s most populous state and is seeing case surges that are overwhelming hospital capacities.
A nurse in the state capital Lucknow, allegedly tested positive for coronavirus and was turned away from her duties, but still had to wait more than 24 hours in a seating area before she got a bed.
“The government can shower flower petals on the hospitals in the name of corona warriors, but can’t the administration provide a bed when the same warrior needs one?” her husband said to the Associated Press Saturday.
Cases of inadequate care are popping up across the country and doctors are now reporting “behavioral fatigue,” which is adding to the spread of the virus.
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“There is a behavioral fatigue now setting in,” said Dr. S.P. Kalantri, the director of a hospital in the village of Sevagram, located is the hardest hit state of Maharashtra.
“The worst is yet to come,” Kalantri said, addressing the surge now rising in rural areas. “There is no light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.