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India reported on Saturday 173,790 new coronavirus infections during the previous 24 hours, its lowest daily rise in 45 days, while deaths rose by 3,617.

The South Asian nation’s tally of infections now stands at 27.7 million, with the death toll at 322,512, health ministry data showed.

India, the second most populous country in the world, this month recorded its highest Covid-19 death toll since the pandemic began last year, accounting for just over a third of the overall total.

The South Asia region - India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka - accounts for 18% of global cases and almost 10% of deaths. But there is growing suspicion that official tallies of infections and deaths are not reflecting the true extent of the problem.

This month, India opened its coronavirus vaccination campaign to everyone aged 18 or older. However, it has not been able to meet vaccine demand despite being one of the biggest vaccine producers in the world.

India has been inoculating its people with the AstraZeneca vaccine produced locally at the Serum Institute of India (SII), Covaxin made by local firm Bharat Biotech and has begun rolling out Russia's Sputnik V.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced mounting criticism for the failure to secure vaccines as only about 3% of India's 1.3 billion population has been fully vaccinated, the lowest rate among the 10 countries with the most cases.

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