Vote count in five Indian states underway as pandemic rages on | News on the coronavirus pandemic

With PM Modi’s ruling BJP seeking to consolidate its hold over more states as an opposition party in Congress, regional blocs are hoping to regain political ground.

Indian election officials have started counting votes in five states as COVID-19 cases continue to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.

New cases hit a daily record of 401,993 cases on Saturday – the highest total in the world. More than 3,700 people have also died – a record in India too – bringing the total death toll to 211,000.

The country has the second highest number of total cases with 19.1 million after the United States.

The second wave overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums and left families scrambling for scarce medicine and oxygen. While India is the world’s largest producer of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine shortages in some states have hampered the start of a mass vaccination campaign.

Vote counting Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry are scheduled to end on Sunday and results will be announced once the counts are completed.

The results are seen as a test of the impact of the devastating second wave of the pandemic on support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing BJP party.

As Modi’s ruling BJP seeks to consolidate its hold over more states, the main opposition party in Congress and regional parties are hoping to regain political ground.

More than 1,000 election observers will do the tally, each expected to produce a negative COVID-19 test report or show they have been fully vaccinated.

Most votes were cast in March, but polls in some constituencies continued until April, as India began to detect thousands of coronavirus infections every day.

Before the surge in COVID-19 cases, leaders of all political parties, including Modi, held political rallies where large crowds flouted rules on social distancing and wearing masks.

Political analysts said the election was a crucial chance for Modi to expand his national dominance, expand his party’s footprint and dislodge one of his fiercest critics.

Modi has been criticized for focusing on national elections instead of the pandemic. Some experts blame mass religious rallies and gatherings in which millions of people participated for the severity of the second wave.

The federal government has also been accused of do not respond to a warning at the beginning of March from its own scientific advisers that a new more contagious variant settled in the country.

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