India surged past 10 million coronavirus cases on Saturday — the second highest in the world although new infection rates appear to have fallen sharply in recent weeks.
The number of cases increased by just over 25,000 in 24 hours, according to the health ministry, while the total number of deaths from the virus in India now stands at 145,136.
The 10-million mark came as the world’s second-most populous nation gears up for the colossal and challenging task of starting to vaccinate the population next year.
The government aims to inoculate 300 million people initially, with health workers and other frontline staff expected first in line.
India has yet to approve any vaccines but several drugmakers have applied for authorisation, including AstraZeneca, which has partnered with India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker.
India has lifted restrictions on most activities to boost the struggling economy, although some states and territories have reimposed curbs.
Health ministry officials were expected to meet the Election Commission — which carries out vast state and national polls — as they map out how to distribute the shots, the Press Trust of India reported Thursday.
Experts have cautioned that the country could struggle because of its weak cold-chain infrastructure — needed for keeping vaccines refrigerated — particularly in poor and densely populated urban areas and remote rural regions.
The United States, with a population a quarter the size of India’s, has been reporting upwards of 200,000 new cases daily in recent weeks, 10 times as many as India.
India’s fatality rate is also considerably lower — less than half that of the US.
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