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India nears 200,000 COVID deaths, daily cases fall, army steps in

India’s coronavirus death toll is nearing the bleak milestone of 200,000 with another 2,771 fatalities reported while its armed forces have pledged urgent medical aid to help battle the staggering spike in infections.

Over the past 24 hours, India recorded 323,144 new cases on Tuesday, slightly below a worldwide peak of 352,991 reached on Monday, with overrun hospitals turning away patients due to a shortage of beds and oxygen supplies.

India, home to approximately 1.3 billion people, has so far reported 17.64 million COVID-19 infections and 197,894 deaths but experts believe the tally runs significantly higher.

“Please note that a huge fall in daily cases … is largely due to a heavy fall in testing,” Rijo M John, a professor and health economist at the Indian Institute of Management in the southern state of Kerala, said on Twitter.

“This should not be taken as an indication of falling cases, rather a matter of missing out on too many positive cases!”

The Indian government has called on its armed forces to help tackle the devastating crisis.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said late on Monday that oxygen would be released from armed forces reserves and retired medical personnel would join health facilities that are struggling under the sheer number of cases.

Briefing Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the army’s preparations to deal with the crisis, Rawat said any oxygen cylinders the military had would be diverted to hospitals in need of the life-saving gas.

Other retired medical officers have been urged to provide consultations through emergency helplines, according to a government statement.

Nursing staff and medical officers on staff appointments at military headquarters will be deployed to support overburdened health workers.

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