© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad
By Neha Arora and Tanvi Mehta
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s coronavirus toll topped 200,000 on Wednesday, the country’s deadliest day, as shortages of oxygen, medical supplies and hospital staff worsened a record number of new infections.
The second wave of infections has seen at least 300,000 people test positive every day over the past week, overwhelming healthcare facilities and crematoriums and fueling an increasingly urgent international response.
The past 24 hours have brought 360,960 new cases for the world’s largest one-day total, bringing the number of infections in India to nearly 18 million. It was also the deadliest day to date, with 3,293 dead bringing the toll to 201,187.
Experts believe, however, that the official count greatly underestimates the real toll in a country of 1.35 billion.
The world is entering a critical phase of the pandemic and needs vaccines available to all adults as soon as possible, said Udaya Regmi, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for Asia of the South (IFRC).
“This is both an ethical and a public health imperative,” he added. “As the variants continue to spread, this pandemic is far from over until the whole world is safe.”
Ambulances lined up for hours in the capital, New Delhi, to take the bodies of COVID-19 victims to makeshift crematoriums in parks and parking lots, where bodies burned in rows of funeral pyres.
People with coronavirus, many of whom have difficulty breathing, have flocked to a Sikh temple on the outskirts of the city, hoping to get some of its limited oxygen supplies.
Hospitals in and around the capital said oxygen remained scarce, despite commitments to step up supplies.
“We are making hundreds of calls and texting every day to get our daily oxygen quota,” Dr Devlina Chakravarty, of Artemis Hospital in the outskirts of Gurgaon, wrote to The Times of India newspaper.
The nearby Mayom Hospital has stopped further admissions unless patients bring oxygen cylinders or concentrators with them, its chief executive, Manish Prakash, told NDTV.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said people were falling sick more seriously and for longer, increasing the pressure.
“The current wave is particularly dangerous,” he said.
“It is extremely contagious and those who contract it are not able to recover from it as quickly. Under these conditions, intensive care services are in high demand.”
Supplies arriving in New Delhi included ventilators and oxygen concentrators from Britain, other envoys from Australia, Germany and Ireland, while Singapore and Russia pledged to provide gas cylinders. oxygen and medical supplies.
“The first shipment of oxygen generators from #Taiwan to #India leaves this week,” Kolas Yotaka, spokesman for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, said on Twitter. “We are all in there.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $ 10 million, adding on Twitter: “We are also ready to donate additional medical supplies.”
Credit rating agency S&P Global (NYSE 🙂 has said the second wave of infections in India could hamper its economic recovery and expose other countries to new waves of epidemics.
The Asia-Pacific region, in particular, was susceptible to the contagion of highly infectious variants in India, given the region’s low vaccination rates, he added.
Tech companies in the southern city of Bengaluru and elsewhere have set up “war rooms” as they scramble to stock up on oxygen, medicine and hospital beds for infected workers and to maintain the behind-the-scenes operations of the world’s largest financial firms.
Epidemiologist Bhramar Mukherjee has called for much larger lockdowns to slow the spread.
“At this point, lives are so much more important than livelihoods,” the University of Michigan professor said on Twitter. “Provide aid to the poor, but please lock down and vaccinate.”
Vaccinations in a nationwide campaign started in January have averaged 2.8 million doses per day since a peak of 4.5 million on April 5, according to government data.
More than 121 million people have received at least one dose, or about 9% of the population.
Later Wednesday, India will allow all people over 18 to register for the vaccination, starting May 1. About 800 million people are expected to become eligible.
US President Joe Biden said he had spoken at length with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on issues such as when the United States could ship vaccines to the South Asian nation, and added that he clearly intended to do so.
“I think we will be able to share, share the vaccines, as well as the know-how, with other countries that really need it. It is the hope and the expectation,” he said. told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.