India Covid: Opposition calls for full national lockdown

India’s main opposition party has called for a full national lockdown, shortly after the country passed more than 20 million Covid-19 infections.

There has been a “virtual collapse of health services” and a lockdown is needed to “break the chain”, a spokesman for the Congress party said.

The prime minister is resisting the move due to the economic impact.

India added more than 355,000 cases on Tuesday, down from more than 400,000 daily infections on 30 April.

Cases are “slowing down”, the government said, but testing numbers have also dipped meaning the true caseload could be far higher.

“We are now forced – there is no option – [we] will have to resort to a national lockdown to break the chain, to restore some order in the health services,” Pawan Khera, a spokesman for the opposition Congress party told the BBC on Tuesday.

Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress leader, said there was no other way to stop the spread of the virus.

Calls for a second national lockdown have also come from business leaders, international health experts and other senior politicians.

Members of India’s Covid-19 taskforce, which advises the central government, are “pushing hard” for a two-week lockdown, The Indian Express reported.

Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top public health expert, described the situation as “extremely serious” and said a nationwide lockdown was needed alongside a massive vaccination drive and the construction of makeshift hospitals.

The decision to impose restrictions in India is made by individual state authorities rather than the central government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that states should only consider restrictions as “a last option”.

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