Coronavirus: oxygen arrive in India as death toll spike

New Delhi, India: More emergency medical assistance from international donors arrived in India on Sunday, as the number of Covid-19 deaths in the South Asian country reached a new high.

As the virus epidemic engulfs overburdened hospitals in cities and spreads into rural areas, India is setting nearly daily records for new infections and deaths.

The 1.3 billion-strong nation recorded 3,689 deaths on Sunday, the largest single-day increase in the pandemic's history, bringing the total toll to more than 215,000.

With the addition of just under 400,000 infections, the total number of cases has now surpassed 19.5 million.

As part of a massive international effort, medical equipment, including oxygen-generation plants, was flown into the capital New Delhi from France and Germany.

"We are here because we are bringing help that... will save lives," Germany's ambassador to India, Walter J. Lindner, said as 120 ventilators arrived late Saturday.

"Out there the hospitals are full. People are sometimes dying in front of the hospitals. They have no more oxygen. Sometimes (they are dying) in their cars."

Emmanuel Lenain, the French ambassador, said that his country wanted to express solidarity with India.

"The epidemic is still going on in one country. The world won't be safe until we are all safe. So it's a matter of urgency," he said early Sunday following the delivery of eight oxygen-generation plants and dozens of ventilators from France.

Rural areas, where health infrastructure is already patchy and small, are becoming increasingly concerned about the virus's spread.

Hospitals in Delhi have continued to issue SOS appeals for oxygen on social media, with the most recent appeal being posted on Twitter on Sunday by a children's hospital.

The request came a day after local media announced that up to a dozen patients died in a Delhi hospital due to an oxygen shortage.

India's inoculation drive opened to all adults on Saturday, but stocks are running low, and those under 45 can only register online.

"It is a necessity now. We are seeing so many people testing positive," data scientist Megha Srivastava, 35, told AFP outside a Delhi vaccination center as she waited for her shot.

"We are coming from 20 kilometers (12 miles) away as this was the only place available."

Experts have urged the government to give vaccine rollouts more flexibility, especially in poorer rural areas with lower internet penetration.

"We should procure sufficient vaccines, then plan bottom-up through... the primary health center level," Bangalore-based public health expert Hemant Shewade told AFP.

"Take vaccines to the people the way we have implemented our polio and measles campaigns."

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