India has reported another record daily surge in coronavirus infections to overtake Brazil as the second-worst hit country in the world.
The 168,912 cases added in the last 24 hours pushed India’s total to 13.5 million, while Brazil has 13.4 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.
India also reported 904 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 170,179, which is the fourth highest toll behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico.
India is experiencing its worst surge of the pandemic, with a seven-day rolling average of more than 130,000 cases per day.
Hospitals across the country are becoming overwhelmed with patients, and experts worry the worst is yet to come.
The latest surge also coincides with the shortage of vaccines in some Indian states, including western Maharashtra state, home to financial capital Mumbai, which is the worst-hit state and has recorded nearly half of the country’s new infections in the past two weeks.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered by the Ganges River for special prayers, many of them flouting social distancing practices despite the spread of the virus.
The Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, is one of the most sacred pilgrimages in Hinduism.
People who take a dip in the river believe it will absolve them of their sins and deliver them from the cycle of birth and death.
Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist party say the festival was allowed because the government was not willing to anger the party’s biggest supporters.