Overcrowded hospitals in India pleaded for oxygen supply on Saturday local time, as the country’s coronavirus infections surged again overnight in a “tsunami” of illness, setting a new world record for cases for the third consecutive day.
Max Healthcare, which runs a network of hospitals in north India, tweeted that it had less than two hours of oxygen left while another big chain Fortis Healthcare 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.
The government has sent military planes and trains to transport oxygen to Delhi from all over the world and abroad, including Singapore.
The number of patients in the population of about 1.3 billion increased overnight by 346,786, according to the Health Ministry, with a total of 16.6 million cases, including 189,544 deaths.
Covid-19 deaths increased by 2624 in the last 24 hours, marking the country’s highest daily average so far.
Crematoriums in Delhi stated that they were complete and requested bereaved families to wait.
In the past 24 hours, India has reported more than 340,000 cases. Thousands more have died.
The country’s hospitals are reporting dangerously low oxygen levels and no empty beds.
— BBC News India (@BBCIndia) April 24, 2021
This week, hospitals in Delhi petitioned the city’s high court to order the state and federal governments to make emergency arrangements for medical supplies, mostly oxygen.
“It’s a tidal wave. How are we attempting to increase capacity? “In response to this petition, the Delhi High Court questioned the state and federal governments.
Families were seen on television tended to the ill in hospital halls and streets as they awaited medical treatment.
One man, Amit, who was crying for his brother at Delhi’s Jaipur Golden hospital, said he saw families rushing around with oxygen cylinders, attempting 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.
In the midst of people’s desperation, the court ordered the government to insure supplies and make security arrangements for medical centres.
“We know how people react, let’s not have a law and order situation,” the court instructed the officials.
On Thursday, India broke the United States’ global high of 297,430 single-day infections, making it the global epicentre of a pandemic that is fading in several other nations.
In February, the federal government announced that the coronavirus had been defeated.
According to health officials, India got complacent during the Northern Hemisphere winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under surveillance. Authorities relaxed bans, allowing large crowds to resume.
Others speculated that it might be a more harmful strain of the virus circulating in India. It is the world’s second-most populated nation, with people living in close quarters, sometimes six to a bed.
“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 local newspaper 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.