India, the country currently hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, yesterday reported its worst daily death toll, with large parts of the nation now under lockdown amid a fast-rising second wave of infections.

Iran PressAsia: The health ministry said 1,761 people had died in the past day, bringing India’s toll to 180,530, still well below the 567,538 deaths reported in the United States, although experts believe India’s actual deaths are far more than the official count.

The world’s second-most populous country is grappling with its biggest public health emergency after it lowered its guard when coronavirus infections fell to a multi-month low in February, health experts and officials say.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Protection has said all travel should be avoided to India, while Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled an official trip to the capital city New Delhi that had been scheduled for next week.

Several major cities are already reporting far larger numbers of cremations and burials under coronavirus protocols than official COVID-19 death tolls, according to the crematorium and cemetery workers, the media, and a review of government data.

The crisis in hospitals has left people fighting for beds, oxygen, and medicines, and doctors said the shortages will inevitably lead to more deaths.

“The huge pressure on hospitals and the health system right now will mean that a good number who would have recovered had they been able to access hospital services may die,” said Gautam I. Menon, a professor at Ashoka University.

The health ministry yesterday reported 259,170 new infections, the sixth day over 200,000 and getting closer to the peak of nearly 300,000 seen in the US in January.

Total coronavirus cases in India are now at 15.32 million, second only to the US, with epidemiologists saying far more infectious new variants were one of the main factors behind the latest surge in cases.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi — who has also addressed Congress party election rallies in recent weeks — said he had tested positive for the virus.

The hardest-hit western state of Maharashtra announced fresh curbs, restricting opening times for grocery shops and vendors to just four hours a day.

Further north, the capital city Delhi suffered a record overnight death toll following a surge in infections and began a six-day lockdown late on Monday. Media reports said the city’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had gone into isolation after his wife tested positive.

Diagnostics firms in big cities were virtually overwhelmed by the number of tests.