India posts global Covid record with 315,000 daily cases

New Delhi, India: On Thursday, India set a global record with nearly 315,000 new Covid infections, as hospitals in New Delhi issued urgent warnings that patients could die if fresh oxygen supplies were not available.

"Only 2 countries have recorded ~300,000 confirmed new covid cases in a day. Today India joined the US. What are we doing to help get this turned around?" Eric Topol asked on Twitter who's an American cardiologist, scientist, and author. He is the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.

A catastrophic second wave blamed on a "double mutant" variant and "super-spreader" mass gatherings are straining India's long-underfunded health system.

On Thursday, health ministry data showed 314,835 new infections in the previous 24 hours, the most of any country since the pandemic started, bringing total cases to 15.9 million, the world's second-largest.

There were 2,074 deaths, taking the overall death toll to almost 185,000.

On a per-capita basis, however, the number of deaths and cases in India is significantly lower than in many other nations.

Major private and government-run hospitals in New Delhi have made urgent requests to the central government for an immediate supply of oxygen for hundreds of patients on ventilator support.


On Wednesday, nearly 500 tonnes of oxygen were delivered to Delhi, but this fell short of the necessary 700 tonnes per day.

The government of the megacity, which is run by a different party than Prime Minister Narendra Modi's national administration, has accused neighboring states ruled by Modi's BJP of stifling supplies.

The Delhi High Court issued an order late Wednesday requiring the government to ensure the secure transport of oxygen supplies from factories to hospitals across India.

"We cannot let people die due to lack of oxygen... you beg, borrow and steal but have to provide," the judges said, asking why the government is "not waking up to the gravity of the situation".

In a hospital in western India, 22 patients died on Wednesday after an oxygen leak cut off the supply to 60 ventilators for half an hour.

'Pants down' 

Mass gatherings in India have occurred in recent months, with millions attending the Kumbh Mela religious festival, political rallies, lavish weddings, and cricket matches with spectators.

"The government has been caught with its pants down," Navneet Singh, 38, a call center executive, told AFP.

States across India have now enforced limits, with Delhi on lockdown for a week, all non-essential shops closed in Maharashtra, and a weekend shutdown planned in Uttar Pradesh.

Modi urged voters in West Bengal on Thursday to "exercise their franchise" as parts of the eastern state voted.

This is despite the fact that West Bengal is also experiencing a health crisis, with Kolkata "faced with an acute shortage of hospital beds," according to Kunar Sarkar, senior vice-chairman of Medica Superspeciality Hospital.

"Beds with oxygen supply are filling fast. Reports are pouring in that at least 100 people are waiting at every hospital in the city," Sarkar told AFP.

According to press reports, the production of key coronavirus drugs slowed or was even halted at some factories in early 2021, and there were delays in inviting bids for oxygen generation plants.

Disgusted relatives are now forced to pay exorbitant prices on the black market for drugs and oxygen, while WhatsApp groups are flooded with urgent appeals for assistance.

The United States now warns against visiting India, even if completely vaccinated, and Britain has put India on its "red list." Flights have been prohibited in Hong Kong and New Zealand.

On Thursday, Australia increased restrictions on arrivals from India, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating that returnees from that country now account for roughly 40% of Covid cases found in quarantine.

India's immunization program has encountered supply issues, forcing New Delhi to halt exports of the AstraZeneca shot, which is manufactured locally by the Serum Institute.

So far, more than 130 million shots have been administered in India, and as of May 1, all adults will be eligible for a vaccination.

"I have just one word (for the current situation), which is appalling," college student Ananya Bhatt, 22, told AFP.

"This is all a result of the gross mismanagement by the government... What kind of a country leaves its citizens to suffocate and die in this manner?"

"If the rich are suffering and can't get hospital beds and oxygen, how on Earth will we manage in case we fall sick," said vegetable vendor Mukhtar Ali, 43.

"People are dying because hospitals can't give them oxygen. Who is responsible for their deaths? It is the government, it has failed us.

Situation tense

Mass gatherings have occurred in recent months, including millions attending the Kumbh Mela religious festival, as well as political demonstrations, lavish weddings, and cricket matches against England.

According to press reports, the production of key coronavirus drugs has slowed or even ceased at some factories, and there have been delays in inviting bids for oxygen generation plants.

Disgusted relatives are now being forced to pay exorbitant prices on the black market for drugs and oxygen, and WhatsApp groups are rife with urgent appeals for assistance.

States across India have enforced restrictions, with Delhi on lockdown for a week, all non-essential shops closed in Maharashtra, and a weekend shutdown planned in Uttar Pradesh.

The United States now warns against traveling to India, except for those who are completely vaccinated, and Britain has added India to its "red list." Flights have been banned in Hong Kong and New Zealand.

India's immunization program has also run into supply issues, forcing New Delhi to halt exports of the AstraZeneca shot, which is manufactured locally by the Serum Institute.

So far, more than 130 million vaccinations have been administered in India, and as of May 1, all adults will be eligible for a vaccination.

With AFP inputs.

COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF REUTERS VIA TWITTER

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