India’s health ministry reported 4,529 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, a single-day record for any country since the pandemic began.
The grim milestone underscores the crisis in the populous Asian nation, where reported cases have fallen to fewer than 300,000 per day but oxygen shortages and a sluggish vaccine rollout are fueling the high death toll.
The decline in cases may reflect lockdowns in urban areas, but the virus continues to spread in rural places.
Also, death totals tend to fluctuate weeks after changes in case counts because of the time it takes for the virus to afflict patients.
The Washington Post said the previous single-day high for deaths was 4,400 on Jan. 20 in the U.S., according to its database.
The American death toll is 587,000, compared to 283,000 in India, though experts say the Indian figure is an undercount — people are dying at home and other places without being tallied.
Countries are sending oxygen tanks and vaccine materials to India to help it fight the surge, which forced crematoriums to run around the clock and sparked widespread anger at the government. Critics say officials failed to prepare for the surge after avoiding the worst of the pandemic early on.
Scientists say some of the spread may be fueled by an aggressive variant of the virus, so the U.S. and other countries set up travel barriers to avoid setbacks at home.