Overwhelmed hospitals in India begged for oxygen supplies on Saturday as the country’s coronavirus infections soared again overnight in a “tsunami” of disease, setting a new world record for cases for the third consecutive day, Reuters reported.
Max Healthcare, which runs a network of hospitals in north India, tweeted that it had less than two hours of oxygen left while Fortis Healthcare, another big chain, said it was suspending new admissions in Delhi.
“We are running on backup, waiting for supplies since morning,” Fortis said.
India is in the grip of a rampaging second wave of the pandemic, hitting a rate of one COVID-19 death in just under every four minutes in Delhi as the capital’s underfunded health system buckles, Reuters reported.
The government has deployed military planes and trains to get oxygen to Delhi from the far corners of the country and overseas including Singapore.
The number of cases across the country of around 1.3 billion rose overnight by 346,786, the Health Ministry said, for a total of 16.6 million cases, including 189,544 deaths.
COVID-19 deaths rose by 2,624 over the past 24 hours, the highest daily rate for the country so far. Crematoriums across Delhi said they were full up and asked grieving families to wait.
Hospitals in Delhi have gone to the city’s high court this week seeking it to order the state and federal governments to make emergency arrangements for medical supplies, mainly oxygen.
“It’s a tsunami. How are we trying to build capacity?” the Delhi high court asked the state and federal governments in response to this plea.
Television showed families tending to the sick in hospital corridors and streets as they waited for medical attention, Reuters reported.
One man identified as Amit who was grieving for his brother at Delhi’s Jaipur Golden hospital said he had seen families running around with oxygen cylinders trying to get them refilled.
“You can’t leave me in the lurch,” a lawyer appearing for the Jaipur Golden hospital told the high court on Saturday, seeking its intervention.
The court asked the government to ensure supplies, as well to make security arrangements for medical centres amid people’s desperation.
“We know how people react, let’s not have a law and order situation,” the court said in its direction to the authorities.
India surpassed the U.S. record of 297,430 single-day infections anywhere in the world on Thursday, making it the global epicentre of a pandemic that is waning in many other countries.
The federal government had declared it had beaten back the coronavirus in February.
Health experts said India became complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control. Authorities lifted restrictions, allowing for the resumption of big gatherings.
Others said that it could also be a more dangerous variant of the virus coursing through India. It is the world’s second most populous country and people live in close proximity, often six to a room.
“While complacency in adhering to masks and physical distancing might have played a role, it seems increasingly likely that this second wave has been fuelled by a much more virulent strain,” wrote Vikram Patel, Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School, in the Indian Express.
Experts say the only way India can turn the tide is to ramp up vaccinations and impose strict lockdowns in the so-called red zones of high infection. It has opened up the immunisation programme to all adults but faces a shortage.
India is currently using the AstraZeneca shot and homegrown Covaxin. It has also approved Russia’s Sputnik V and has urged Pfizer Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to provide it with vaccines.
India’s COVID-19 deaths cross quarter million as virus ravages countryside
India’s coronavirus deaths crossed a quarter million on Wednesday in the deadliest 24 hours since the pandemic began, as the disease rampaged through the countryside, overloading a fragile rural healthcare system.
Boosted by highly infectious variants, the second wave erupted in February to inundate hospitals and medical staff, as well as crematoriums and mortuaries. Experts are still unable to say with certainty when the figures will peak.
Deaths swelled by a record 4,205 while infections rose 348,421 in the 24 hours to Wednesday, carrying the tally past 23 million, health ministry data showed. Experts believe the actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher, however.
Funeral pyres have blazed in city parking lots, and scores of bodies have washed up on the banks of the holy river Ganges, having been immersed by relatives whose villages were stripped bare of the wood needed for cremations.
Lacking beds, drugs and medical oxygen, hospitals have been forced to turn away droves of sufferers, while tales of desperate relatives searching for someone to treat dying loved ones have become sickeningly commonplace.
Many victims die without a doctor on hand to issue a death certificate, and even when a doctor is available, COVID-19 is not specified as the cause of death unless the deceased was tested for the disease, which few have been.
Although the infection curve may be showing early signs of flattening, new cases are likely to fall off slowly, said top virologist Shahid Jameel.
“We seem to be plateauing around 400,000 cases a day,” the Indian Express newspaper quoted him as saying.
“It is still too early to say whether we have reached the peak.”
India, with a population of 1.4 billion, accounts for half of cases and 30% of deaths worldwide, the World Health Organization said in its latest weekly report.
The full impact of the B.1.617 variant found in India, which the agency has designated as being of global concern, is not yet clear, it added.
Daily infections are shooting up in the countryside in comparison to big towns, where they have slowed after last month’s surge, experts say.
More than half the cases this week in the western state of Maharashtra were in rural areas, up from a third a month ago. That share is nearly two-thirds in the most populous, and mainly rural, state of Uttar Pradesh, government data showed.
Television showed images of people weeping over the bodies of loved ones in ramshackle rural hospitals while others camped in wards tending to the sick.
A pregnant woman was taking care of her husband who had breathing difficulties in a hospital in Bhagalpur in the eastern state of Bihar that is seeing a surge its health system could barely have handled at the best of times.
“There is no doctor here, she sleeps the whole night here, taking care of her husband,” her brother told India Today television.
In a corridor outside, two sons were wailing over the body of their father, saying repeatedly that he could have been saved if only he had been given a bed in an intensive care unit.
At the general hospital in Bijnor, a town in northern Uttar Pradesh, a woman lay in a cot next to a garbage can and medical waste.
“How can someone get treated if the situation is like this?” asked her son, Sudesh Tyagi. “It is a hell out here.”
India records another record number of COVID cases
India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu announced new lockdown measures on Saturday as officials reported a nationwide record number of single-day COVID-19 deaths as cases continue to surge.
India’s health ministry reported 4,187 fatalities over the past 24 hours, taking the overall death toll to just under 240,000. Cases rose by 401,078, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 21.9 million, Reuters reported.
Officials in Tamil Nadu said the state-wide lockdown would begin on Monday and last until May 24. Shops and other businesses will be allowed to open on Saturday and Sunday to give residents time to prepare for the sweeping shutdown.
Neighbouring Karnataka, home to India’s tech capital Bengaluru, announced late on Friday it was extending movement restrictions, also until May 24.
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India has brought the country’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse, with a scarcity of hospital beds and oxygen, Reuters reported.
Morgues and crematoriums have struggled to handle the number of dead and makeshift funeral pyres burn in parks and car parks.
Medical experts say the real numbers of COVID-19 cases and fatalities are likely to be far higher than official tallies.
293 new covid cases and 9 deaths reported in Afghanistan
On Thursday, the Ministry of Public Health reported 293 new cases of COVID-19 out of 2,185 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported nine deaths and 211 recoveries from COVID-19 in the same period.
The new cases were reported in Nangarhar (96), Kabul (88), Herat (3), Kandahar (31), Balkh (7), Takhar (1), Baghlan (6), Kunduz (2), Paktia (6), Parwan (2), Maidan Wardak (3), Badakhshan (2), Kapisa (6), Logar (1) Ghazni (4), Kunar (3), Laghman (4), Zabul (4), Ghor (12), Khost (7) and Paktika (5) provinces.
Deaths were reported in Kabul (2), Khost (2), Kandahar (1), Takhar (1), Paktia (1), Logar (1) and Zabul (1) provinces.
The ministry reported that the cumulative total of known COVID-19 cases is 61,455, the total number of reported deaths is 2,673, and the total number of recoveries is 53,961.
So far, 414,983 samples have been tested in government centers and there are 4,821 known active COVID-19 cases in the country, data by the ministry indicates.
This comes after Pakistan recently banned inbound pedestrian movement from neighboring Afghanistan and Iran in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.
The ban will be effective from May 4 to May 20 and only Pakistani nationals and people with extreme emergency medical issues will be allowed to enter the Pakistan from both countries.
All outbound pedestrian movement will be allowed.
Border terminals between the three countries will also remain open throughout the week for trade and cargo purposes.
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