US tells citizens to get out of India as Covid-19 crisis worsens

Relatives prepare to cremate the body of a person at a crematorium ground in New Delhi on April 28, 2021.
Relatives prepare to cremate the body of a person at a crematorium ground in New Delhi on April 28, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - The United States government told its citizens to leave India as soon as possible as the country's Covid-19 crisis worsens at an astonishing pace.

In a level 4 travel advisory - the highest issued by the State Department - US citizens were told "not to travel to India or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so".

There are 14 direct daily flights between India and the US and other services that connect through Europe, the department said.

The Indian authorities and hospitals are struggling to cope with record Covid-19 infections and deaths.

Official data on Wednesday (April 28) showed new cases rose by a staggering 360,960 over the prior 24 hours, while 3,293 additional lives were lost. More than 201,000 people have died.

The South Asian nation now has the world's fastest-growing caseload and the virus has gripped its populace with a severity not seen in its first wave.

Mass funeral pyres, lines of ambulances outside overcrowded hospitals and desperate pleas on social media for oxygen underscore how grossly unprepared India's federal and state governments are to tackle the latest coronavirus wave.

The unfolding tragedy is prompting some of the world's biggest corporations to organise aid. is harnessing its global logistics supply chain to airlift 100 intensive-care ventilator units from the US, and the equipment will reach India in the next two weeks.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said he was "heartbroken" by the situation and the tech behemoth is using its voice, resources and technology to aid relief efforts and help purchase oxygen concentrators.

Blackstone Group's chairman Stephen Schwarzman said his private equity firm is committing US$5 million (S$6.6 million) to support India's Covid-19 relief and vaccination services to "marginalised communities".

Local companies, too, are wading in, with the philanthropic arm of India's most valuable company - Reliance Industries, controlled by Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani - pledging to create, commission and manage 100 ICU beds that will become operational in the middle of next month.

As thousands of doctors, nurses and non-medical professionals work around-the-clock to save what patients they can, the rest of the world is drawing up their bridges.

Australia earlier this week banned all flights from India to relieve pressure on the nation's system of mainly quarantining returned residents from overseas in inner-city hotels, while Britain has barred any visitor who has been in India in the previous 10 days from entering.

British and Irish nationals arriving in England from India must quarantine in a hotel.