India set another record in the current surge of new COVID-19 infections Thursday as officials warn that a third wave will sweep the country.
The Health Ministry reported a single-day record 412,262 new confirmed coronavirus cases, including a record 3,980 deaths. The South Asian nation's total COVID-19 figures now stand at just over 21 million confirmed cases and 230,168 deaths.
K. Vijay Raghavan, a senior government scientific adviser, warned Wednesday that a third wave of coronavirus infections would sweep the country as it struggles with the devastating effects of the current wave.
"Phase 3 is inevitable, given the high levels of circulating virus," Raghavan said at a news briefing in New Delhi. "But it is not clear on what timescale this Phase 3 will occur. ... We should prepare for new waves."
India's crisis is aggravated by a critical lack of oxygen needed to treat critically ill patients, along with the raw materials needed to manufacture doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. While India is home to the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, only 2% of the country's 1.3 billion people have been vaccinated, according to local reports.
The government has been ordered by the Supreme Court to submit a plan to meet oxygen needs in New Delhi hospitals by Thursday.
Elsewhere, New Zealand has suspended a "travel bubble" with the Australian state of New South Wales after a married couple in their 50s in the state capital, Sydney, tested positive for the virus.
Chris Hipkins, New Zealand's coronavirus response minister, announced Thursday that flights from New South Wales will be suspended for 48 hours while officials in the south Australian state investigate the infections, the first public transmission of the virus since April.
New Zealand and Australia opened a travel bubble last month that allows travelers from Australia to visit New Zealand without entering a mandatory coronavirus quarantine period.
Pfizer vaccine immunity
In other developments, a new study has found the two-shot Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine provides strong immunity against two dangerous variants of the virus.
A letter published in Wednesday's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine found the Pfizer vaccine is about 90% effective against severe infection from the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in Britain, which is far more transmissible and is fueling a new wave of outbreak around the world.
The letter also said the Pfizer vaccine is about 75% effective against the B.1.351 variant first detected in South Africa.