0426 GMT June 21, 2021
More than 350,000 new cases were reported in India Tuesday, a drop from the peak of 402,000 last week, giving some cause for optimism that the worst of the devastating wave may have passed.
"If daily cases and deaths are analyzed, there is a very early signal of movement in the positive direction," senior Health Ministry official Lay Aggarwal told reporters, AFP wrote.
"But these are very early signals. There is a need to further analyze it."
India's healthcare infrastructure has struggled to cope with the huge number of cases, with deep shortages of medicines, hospital beds and medical oxygen.
Cricket officials suspended the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL), after the country added 10 million cases in just over four months, versus the more than 10 months taken for the first 10 million.
"These are difficult times, especially in India, and while we have tried to bring in some positivity and cheer, it is imperative that the tournament is now suspended and everyone goes back to their families and loved ones in these trying times," the IPL said in a statement, Reuters reported.
The cricket-obsessed nation's halt to the IPL tournament was a result of the virus crisis, its chairman Brijesh Patel said. The tournament, with an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion, was being played without spectators to a huge television audience this year but has been severely criticized for continuing at a time when the country's health care system is on the brink of a collapse.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown for fear of the economic fallout, but several states have imposed social curbs.
The impoverished eastern state of Bihar ordered a lockdown until May 15 to curb the virus, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Twitter. With more than 100,000 infections, its death toll is nearing 3,000, government figures show.
The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant has swamped the health system and depleted supplies of life-saving oxygen, while sufferers have died in ambulances and carparks outside hospitals.
Rows of funeral pyres set up in parks and other open spaces are being used to cremate the overflow of corpses.
Modi has been criticized for not moving sooner to limit the latest wave of infections and for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies during March and April.
The wave in the South Asian nation – spurred by huge gatherings including the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela – has highlighted the danger of COVID-19, which has already claimed more than 3.2 million lives worldwide.