India's Goa state, a hugely popular tourist destination on the western coast, has the highest rate of Covid-19 infections in the country, with up to one in every two people testing positive in recent weeks, government officials said.
Leaders of the small state, ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP party, were being blamed by the opposition and medical experts for ignoring pandemic protocols and allowing entry to tens of thousands of tourists this year in a bid to generate revenue.
Two government-appointed medical officials working at the state's Covid-19 data collection centre in the capital Panjim said the positivity rates in tests since April were between 40% to 51%, the highest in the country.
"The rate at which positive cases have increased represents the true picture of how fast the virus has spread," said one state official, adding that a complete lockdown and strict ban on entry of all tourists was the only way to slow down the surge.
Nationwide, India has recorded over 20 million infections since the start of the epidemic, the second-highest in the world after the United States, and over 225,000 deaths.
Goa had been relatively spared the devastation but Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said the situation now was "grim".
"Its true that Goa's positivity rate is very high and we are now seeking fresh allocation for medical oxygen and life-saving devices," he said.
"A strict lockdown is the only way to limit the pandemic," he said, adding the tourism-led economy will only be able to withstand the crisis if the vaccination drive is accelerated.
Daily infections across India rose by 382,315 today, health ministry data showed. Government modelling had pointed to a peak by today, a few days earlier than thought, since the virus has spread faster than expected.
The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant of the coronavirus has seen hospitals runs out of beds and oxygen and left morgues and crematoriums overflowing.
Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.
Two "oxygen express" trains reached the capital Delhi this morning carrying desperately needed liquid oxygen. Over 25 trains have so far delivered oxygen to different parts of India.
India's government says there are enough oxygen supplies but distribution has been hindered by transport problems.
A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals seeking oxygen and invoking India's constitutional right to protection of life.
India's surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations due to supply and delivery problems.
At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave of the virus.
Religious festivals and political rallies have attracted tens of thousands of people in super spreader events.
India's opposition has called for a nationwide lockdown, but the government is reluctant to impose a shutdown for fear of the economic fallout, although several states have imposed social curbs.
"We need a government. Desperately. And we don't have one. We are running out of air. We are dying..." wrote Indian author Arundhati Roy in an opinion piece published yesterday calling Mr for Modi to step down.
"This is a crisis of your making. You cannot solve it. You can only make it worse....So please go. It is the most responsible thing for you to do. You have forfeited the moral right to be our prime minister."
India has an estimated 3.45 million active cases, but medical experts say the actual numbers of dead and infected could be five to 10 times higher. The country added 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.
Daily testing in India has fallen sharply to 1.5 million, state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said. It hit a peak of 1.95 million on Saturday.
Cricket officials suspended the hugely popular, money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) yesterday as the pandemic spirals out of control.
Ireland is among several countries which have sent aid to India, contributing 700 oxygen concentrators and 365 ventilators.
What's happening in India with #COVID19 is truly heartbreaking. Today we continue to send life saving supplies from the HSE. Oxygen generators & ventillators being dispatched that will arrive this week. A shocking reminder of the impacts of this virus @HSELive @Irish_Aid pic.twitter.com/CfnOSBxeg5— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) May 3, 2021