The latest on Covid-19 and India's worsening crisis

By Joshua Berlinger, James Griffiths, Kara Fox and Niamh Kennedy, CNN

Updated 0002 GMT (0802 HKT) April 30, 2021
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12:07 a.m. ET, April 29, 2021

Modi calls for people to vote "in line with Covid-19 protocols" on final day of local elections

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi and Chandler Thornton in Hong Kong

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for people to continue to come out "in line with Covid-19 protocols" and vote during the last phase of West Bengal state elections.

Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have come under fire for holding several rallies ahead of the elections in West Bengal, with thousands in attendance and failing to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Critics have accused the BJP of putting politics before public health. India is now facing a massive new wave of Covid-19 cases across the country and nationwide shortages of oxygen.

On April 22, the Election Commission of India tightened restrictions for the remaining phases of the West Bengal state assembly elections, banning road shows, vehicle rallies and large public meetings with more than 500 people after finding political parties and candidates were flouting Covid-19 guidelines. 

However, political parties – including the BJP – continued to hold rallies throughout the week, even as India continued to record more than 300,000 cases per day.

Thursday is the last day of voting in West Bengal. The polls opened around 7 a.m. local time (9:30p ET) and are expected to close at 6:30 p.m. local (9a ET).

Southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala states, West Bengal and Assam states in the east and the union territory of Puducherry went to the polls on March 27, with voting taking place across eight phases and ending on April 29. All votes are to be counted on May 2, with the results announced on the same day, though India’s Election Commission has banned victory procession.

On Thursday, the Election Commission also issued guidelines ordering all polling officials and candidates to provide negative Covid-19 test reports or to have had both doses of Covid-19 vaccine ahead of May 2.

11:43 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Colombia reports record number of deaths in a day as protesters take to the streets

From Stefano Pozzebon in Bogota, Colombia

People take part in a protest against a tax reform bill launched by Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Bogota, Colombia, on April 28.
People take part in a protest against a tax reform bill launched by Colombian President Ivan Duque, in Bogota, Colombia, on April 28. Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Colombia's Health Ministry reported a record 490 new Covid-related deaths Wednesday, the same day protesters came out in force to oppose tax reforms and the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The South American country also reported 19,745 new coronavirus cases, bringing its total number to 2,824,626 since the pandemic began. At least 72,725 people have died so far.

Colombia has dispensed 4,625,373 vaccine doses so far, according to the country's Health Ministry.

11:07 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

World’s biggest vaccine maker reduces price of Covid-19 vaccines for Indian states

From CNN’s Swati Gupta in New Delhi

The world's biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute India (SII), will reduce prices on Covid-19 vaccines as India faces a surge of new cases across the country, the company's chief executive said.

Adar Poonawall tweeted Wednesday that the price would be reduced by 100 rupees, going from US$5.30 per dose to US$4 per dose, to "enable more vaccinations and save countless lives.”

SII manufactures the Oxford/AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine.

11:20 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Nepal orders 20,000 oxygen cylinders as cases surge

From Asha Thapa in Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepalese workers remove oxygen cylinders after refilling them in Lalitpur, Nepal on April 27
Nepalese workers remove oxygen cylinders after refilling them in Lalitpur, Nepal on April 27 Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Nepal recorded 4,897 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday, a surge in cases that's forcing the government to source 20,000 extra oxygen cylinders from abroad to cope with the country’s limited supply.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population, Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, told reporters Wednesday that demand for oxygen had increased threefold in the last week for medical purposes. Gautam said that some cylinders had been found to be faulty due to poor storage practices and that people had started hoarding cylinders in response to developments in neighboring India.

Nepal’s Ministry of Health has requested that all doctors and health workers on leave report back to work immediately to help deal with the latest increase in cases 

Gautam also said the government was aware that people may violate curfew and lockdown orders to celebrate upcoming festivals.

 

10:33 p.m. ET, April 28, 2021

Which countries are supplying India with help

International organizations and countries around the world have pledged to help India grapple with its devastating outbreak of Covid-19 and severe shortages of oxygen.

WHO and UNICEF: The WHO is helping to set up mobile hospital units, providing for laboratories, and some 2,600 WHO field officers have been immediately deployed to support health authorities to curb the spread of the pandemic. 

It is also supplying:  

  • 7,000 oxygen concentrators
  • 500 nasal devices for oxygen supply
  • Oxygen generating plants
  • Covid-19 testing machines and personal protective kits, Haq said

United States: The White House said it is delivering "supplies worth more than $100 million in the coming days to provide urgent relief to our partners in India.”

Those include:

  • 1,100 refillable cylinders of oxygen already delivers, “with more planeloads to come”
  • 1,700 oxygen concentrators to obtain oxygen from ambient air
  • 15 million N95 masks
  • AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies allowing India to make over 20 million doses of the company's Covid-19 vaccines
  • 1 million rapid diagnostic tests
  • A first tranche of a planned 20,000 treatment courses for the antiviral drug remdesivir

China: Beijing chaired a meeting with leaders from South Asia on Tuesday to coordinate assistance against the pandemic in the region, a statement from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Leaders from India were invited but were not on the call. 

“China is ready to provide support and assistance to Indian people at any time based on their needs,” said Wang. “It is hoped that our meeting today can also assist India in the fight against the pandemic.

United Kingdom:

  • 3 mobile oxygen generation units, each of which is the size of a shipping container. They each produce 500 liters of oxygen per minute, which is enough for 50 people to use at a time
  • 495 oxygen concentrators
  • 200 ventilators

Russia:

  • 20 units of oxygen supply equipment
  • 75 ventilators
  • 150 medical monitors
  • 200,000 packages of medicines

Germany:

  • 120 respirators
  • An oxygen production facility

Italy:

  • An oxygen production and a team of specialized personnel to ensure its correct use