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Pressure rises for India lockdown; surge breaks record again

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced growing pressure Friday to impose a strict nationwide lockdown, despite the economic pain it will exact, as a startling surge in coronavirus cases that has pummeled the country’s health system shows no signs of abating.

Many medical experts, opposition leaders and even Supreme Court judges are calling for national restrictions, arguing that a patchwork of state rules is insufficient to quell the rise in infections.

Indian television stations broadcast images of patients lying on stretchers outside hospitals waiting to be admitted, with hospital beds and critical oxygen in short supply. People infected with COVID-19 in villages are being treated in makeshift outdoor clinics, with IV drips hanging from trees.

As deaths soar, crematoriums and burial grounds have been swamped with bodies, and relatives often wait hours to perform the last rites for their loved ones.

The situation is so dramatic that among those calling for a strict lockdown are merchants who know their businesses will be affected but see no other way out.

“Only if our health is good, will we be able to earn,” said Aruna Ramjee, a florist in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. “The lockdown will help everyone, and coronavirus spread will also come down.”

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