India, home to 1.3 billion people, is battling a worrying surge, with record daily case numbers overwhelming already stretched hospitals and medical supplies, Reuters reports.
Its capital New Delhi was locked down Monday for a week, and the government said all adults would be eligible for a vaccine from May as it tries to get a grip on the spike.
Similar measures have been taken in other Indian states, adding to the woes of people already reeling from the economic pressure of the pandemic.
India’s daily cases retreated from record levels on Tuesday, but stayed above the 200,000 mark for a sixth straight day, with cases increasing by 259,170 over the last 24 hours. It has reported 1.59m cases in the last week alone.
Deaths rose by a record 1,761 to reach a total of 180,530, health ministry data showed.
The looming lockdown in Delhi forced tens of thousands of migrant workers to try and flee on Monday, fuelling fears they could spread the virus to their rural hometowns.
“Last year I was stuck here for 50 days,” said tailor Hari Shankar, referring to the strict coronavirus lockdown India imposed last year.
“I didn’t have work and couldn’t send money home... I’m not planning on coming back (to Delhi) until Covid is over.”
Experts have warned that religious festivals, including the Kumbh Mela attended by millions of pilgrims, and packed state election rallies in India had become “super-spreader” events - and some have said mass vaccinations are the only long-term solution.