India

Indian Premier League under fire for plan to keep playing despite COVID-19 crisis

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NEW DELHI, April 25 (Reuters) - The Indian Premier League (IPL) will carry on with games, its organisers said on Sunday, but came under heavy criticism for the plan as the country grapples with a massive surge in coronavirus cases.

The New Indian Express and a sister publication said on Sunday they had decided to suspend its IPL coverage, while hundreds of fans lambasted the league on social media.

An IPL governing council member told Reuters the league has "a robust bio-bubble" and is being played without fans which made it safe to continue.

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"IPL provides a much-needed distraction for all from the doom and gloom around us," the official said, requesting anonymity.

"Yes, cases have surged in venues like Delhi, but we have two standby venues in Hyderabad and Indore and we'd use them if needed."

India's number of COVID-19 cases surged by 349,691 on Sunday, a new global record, and hospitals in Delhi and across the country are turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds. read more

The Chennai-based New Indian Express said its decision to suspend coverage was "a small gesture towards keeping the nation's attention focused on life and death issues."

Australia's Adam Gilchrist, who led now-defunct Deccan Chargers to their maiden IPL victory in 2009, also waded into the debate.

"Best wishes to all in India. Frightening Covid numbers. #IPL continues. Inappropriate? Or important distraction each night? Whatever your thoughts, prayers are with you," tweeted the former test player.

India's tally of infections stands at 16.96 million with 192,311 deaths.

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Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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