India's devastating second wave of COVID-19 continued to smolder overnight as Indian health officials reported more than 300K new cases for a sixth straight day (though the latest number is less than a record 353K cases reported Monday). India's army pledged to provide urgent medical aid to help battle the staggering spike in new infections, yet oxygen supplies and beds remain low at hospitals across the country, but particularly in the capital city of Delhi, and other large population centers. Across India, another 2,771 COVID-19 deaths were reported, bringing the national death toll to 197,894.
These latest numbers bring India's total to 3.8M new COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks. Citi analysts pointed out that states accounting for roughly 50% of India’s GDP have announced weekend lockdowns. As Australia joins a growing list of nations halting all commercial travel from India, analysts see growing downside risks to their 1QFY22 real GDP forecast (1.6% QoQ, saar).
Every day, it seems, there's some new viral story emerging out of India's COVID-19-induced misery. Last week, westerners were warned about crematoriums across India working overtime due to the surging deaths. Well, on Tuesday, video showing a patient's body falling out of the back of an ambulance went viral on western social media networks.
The incident, which took place on Friday, has sparked an uproar in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. In the video, the ambulance can be seen leaving the gates, then swerving a corner. A side panel falls open and a shrouded body falls out onto the road. Family members can then be heard yelling in protest.
Shocking! In Vidisha people are alleging that dead bodies are not being handed over to them, an ambulance is taking away a deadbody people noticed after the dead body fell from the ambulance as the driver panicked! @ndtv @ndtvindia @manishndtv @GargiRawat pic.twitter.com/RGVkcM0bAt— Anurag Dwary (@Anurag_Dwary) April 23, 2021
A medical official told reporters that the ambulance was old and had been donated by an unspecified NGO.
As western nations including the US, Germany and others rush to send aid to India, Gilead Sciences announced Tuesday that it would give India at least 450K vials of its COVID-19 drug remdesivir and donate active pharmaceutical ingredients to boost production, as infections surge in the country. India has an official tally of 17.31 million infections and 195,123 deaths, health ministry data shows, although health experts say the figures likely run higher.
Fears that India's latest outbreak might spread across Asia intensified as Thailand, another closely watched country which had been lauded for its success in battling the virus, reported 15 new deaths on Tuesday, a new daily high, as its third-wave of the outbreak continued to intensify. The health ministry also reported 2,179 more cases. Thailand for months had suppressed the virus but a new outbreak emerged several weeks ago.
Finally, after a third state of emergency measure was ordered across Tokyo, Osaka and Kyodo, Japan's self-defense force is planning to open a mass vaccination center in Tokyo next month. The Defense Ministry tweeted it had been asked by PM Yoshihide Suga to set up the Tokyo vaccination centre by May 24 with plans for it to operate for three months. The facility will service residents in the capital and the surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa.
While US equity averages charge to new record highs, the resurgence in COVID-19 in India and Japan has weighed on equity benchmarks across the Continent. Japan has been one of the worst performers among major global equity markets in recent weeks. The Tokyo Stock Exchange's blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average index has fallen over 2% in the last week and remains flat compared to a month ago. The broader Topix index has weakened nearly 3% in the past month.