Umar Farooq mourns next to the body of his mother, who died of coronavirus, before her burial at a graveyard in Srinagar on Monday. AFP
India ordered its armed forces on Monday to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections that are overwhelming hospitals, as countries including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said oxygen would be released to hospitals from armed forces reserves and retired medical military personnel would join COVID-19 health facilities.
And where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians, a government statement said, as new coronavirus infections hit a record peak for a fifth day.
"Air, Rail, Road & Sea; Heaven & earth are being moved to overcome challenges thrown up by this wave of COVID19," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter.
Modi on Sunday urged all citizens to get vaccinated and to exercise caution amid what he called a "storm" of infections, while hospitals and doctors in some northern states posted urgent notices saying they were unable to cope with the influx. In some of the worst-hit cities, bodies were being burnt in makeshift facilities offering mass cremations.
FIRE KILLS 5 VIRUS PATIENTS
Following a fire at a hospital in the western diamond industry hub of Surat, five COVID-19 patients died after being moved to other hospitals that lacked space in their intensive care units, a municipal official told Reuters.
A man carrying wood walks past the funeral pyres of those who died from coronavirus at a crematorium in New Delhi. Reuters
Television channel NDTV broadcast images of three health workers in the eastern state of Bihar pulling a body along the ground on its way to cremation, as stretchers ran short.
"If you've never been to a cremation, the smell of death never leaves you," Vipin Narang, a political science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, said on Twitter.
"My heart breaks for all my friends and family in Delhi and India going through this hell."
A relative holds a bottle of medicine administered to a patient sitting inside a car waiting to enter a COVID-19 hospital in Ahmedabad. Reuters
On Sunday, President Joe Biden said the United States would send raw materials for vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear. Germany joined a growing list of countries pledging supplies.
In Moscow, which expects 50 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine to be made each month in India this summer, a Kremlin spokesman expressed concern over the situation.
Several cities have ordered curfews, while police enforce social distancing and mask-wearing. Politicians, especially Modi, have faced criticism for holding rallies during state election campaigns that draw thousands into packed stadiums.
About 8.6 million voters were expected to cast ballots on Monday in the eastern state of West Bengal, in the final phases of a contest set to wrap up this week. Also voting in local elections was the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, which has been reporting an average of 30,000 infections a day.
Modi's plea on vaccinations came after inoculations peaked at 4.5 million doses on April 5, but have since averaged about 2.7 million a day, government figures show.
Health workers carry the body of a man who was suffering from coronavirus in Mumbai.
Virologists said more infectious variants of the virus, including an Indian one, have fuelled the resurgence.
The government told people to stay indoors and follow hygiene protocols. "Please don't invite people into your home... It has become clearer that the transmissibility of this virus is faster," said senior health official Vinod Kumar Paul.
Daily infections rose by 382,315 on Wednesday, health ministry data showed. Government modelling had pointed to a peak by Wednesday, a few days earlier than thought, since the virus has spread faster than expected.
Twitter and Facebook have become the virtual command centres with the help of users, as governments fail to provide any real-time data on the availability of life-saving drugs and beds as the crisis deepens.
"Our prayers for a speedy recovery go to all those suffering from the pandemic in our neighbourhood & the world,” the prime minister said on Twitter.
Power demand around India shows how many nationwide heeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to switch off their lights on Sunday and burn candles instead to "challenge the darkness" of the coronavirus, with the north coming out clear winners.
The Roads and Transport Authority said on Twitter, “RTA announced the timings of its services during the holiday marking Commemoration Day and the UAE 51st National Day.
He also affirmed that the gesture also reflects one of the UAE’s key national values of tolerance.
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, has pardoned 333 prisoners from Punitive and Correctional Institution in Sharjah ahead of 51st UAE National Day.