Relatives carry the body of a man who died from the coronavirus disease. AFP
Indian authorities scrambled on Saturday to get oxygen tanks to hospitals where COVID-19 patients were suffocating amid the world’s worst coronavirus surge, as the government came under increasing criticism for what doctors said was its negligence in the face of a foreseeable public health disaster.
For the third day in a row, India set a global daily record of new infections. The 346,786 confirmed cases over the past day brought India’s total to more than 16 million, behind only the United States.
A patient attended inside a vehicle at a dedicated COVID-19 government hospital in Ahmedabad. AP
The Health Ministry reported another 2,624 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s COVID-19 fatalities to 189,544. Experts say even those figures are likely an undercount.
"Every hospital is running out (of oxygen). We are running out,” Dr Sudhanshu Bankata, executive director of Batra Hospital, a leading hospital in the capital, told New Delhi Television channel.
A patient sits outside Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in New Delhi. Reuters
In a sign of the desperation unfolding over the shortages, a high court in Delhi warned on Saturday it would "hang” anyone who tries to obstruct the delivery of emergency oxygen supplies, amid evidence that some local authorities were diverting tanks to hospitals in their areas. The court, which was hearing submissions by a group of hospitals over the oxygen shortages, termed the devastating rise in infections a "tsunami."
At least 20 COVID-19 patients at the critical care unit of New Delhi’s Jaipur Golden Hospital died overnight as "oxygen pressure was low,” the Indian Express newspaper reported.
"Our supply was delayed by seven-eight hours on Friday night and the stock we received last night is only 40% of the required supply,” the newspaper quoted the hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr D.K. Baluja, as saying.
Multiple funeral pyres of victims of COVID-19 burn in a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for mass cremation in New Delhi. AP
Queues of Covid-19 patients and their fearful relatives are building up outside hospitals in major cities across India, the new world pandemic hotspot which has now reported nearly one million new cases in three days.
Another 2,624 deaths, a new daily record, were reported in 24 hours, taking the official toll to nearly 190,000 since the pandemic started.
India's coronavirus infections rose by 346,786 overnight, the health ministry said on Saturday, setting a new world record for the third consecutive day, as overwhelmed hospitals in the densely-populated country begged for oxygen supplies.
But many experts are predicting the current wave will not peak for at least three weeks and that the real death and case numbers are much higher.
Stung by criticism of its lack of preparation ahead of the wave of infections, the central government has organised special trains to get oxygen supplies to the worst-hit cities.
It has also pressed industrialists to increase production of oxygen and other life-saving drugs in short supply.
One 'oxygen express' carrying 30,000 litres for hospitals arrived in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh state at dawn on Saturday, where armed guards were waiting to escort trucks to hospitals.
Lucknow has been one of the worst hit cities, with hospitals and crematoriums inundated with patients and bodies, and officials said the liquid oxygen would only be enough for half a day's needs.
The Indian air force is also being used to transport oxygen tankers and other supplies around the country.
In New Delhi, the city's government said it would begin setting up buffer stocks of oxygen to speed supplies to hospitals when they are within hours of running out.
Many patients are dying outside hospitals in the capital because of the lack of beds and oxygen.
One charity has set up an overflow crematorium in a car park, with makeshift funeral pyres built to deal with the mounting deaths.
The report ‘India now world’s second-most affected country by COVID-19’ (April 12) is deeply disturbing. The surge in positive cases shows the carelessness of the administration as well as individuals. People should adhere and comply with the control measures
India should pay heed to Dr Samiran Panda’s suggestions if it is to avoid another COVID-19 wave from hitting the country (“Rise in cases in some states indicates third wave: ICMR,” Aug 31, Gulf Today). The nation has fine doctors and advisers, unfortunately
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