World pours help to Covid-stricken India

New Delhi, India: The US, Sunday, led foreign pledges of support for India as the country grappled with the worsening Covid-19 crisis, which has resulted in record daily death rates and extreme medical shortages.

Patients' families have been crying for support on social media, and the Indian capital, New Delhi, has been forced to extend its tight lockdown.

On Sunday, a fire tore through a Baghdad hospital for Covid-19 patients, killing more than 80 people and causing uproar and the suspension of top Iraqi officials.

After its discovery in China in December 2019, Covid-19 has killed over three million people around the world.

India, with a population of 1.3 billion people, has been driving up global case numbers in recent days, with 349,691 new infections and 2,767 deaths reported on Sunday, the highest since the pandemic began.

On Sunday, Delhi said that more than a quarter of those screened were positive.

President Joe Biden said that the US was "determined to assist India in its time of need," and that supplies of vaccine-making material, therapeutics, tests, ventilators, and protective equipment will be made available immediately.

Western countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany have also offered assistance.

 'I could do nothing' 

"The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine," a White House statement said, referring to the India-produced version of the AstraZeneca shot.

However, it did not say whether the US would send millions of extra AstraZeneca vaccine doses to India, despite top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci saying on Sunday that such a step would be considered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said the country had been shaking by a "storm" and urged people to get vaccinated and not "be swayed by any rumor about vaccinations."

Despite the fact that the country has provided almost 141 million vaccine shots to date, experts believe the mass vaccination program needs to be dramatically expanded.

Pakistan, an arch-enemy, offered its support and assistance, with Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeting prayers for a "fast recovery."

Travel restrictions were levied by other nations. Thailand became the latest country to prohibit foreigners from leaving India on Sunday.

Bangladesh, which shares a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) border with India, has announced a two-week halt to land crossings, according to Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen.

Experts have long cautioned that it is in the global interest for wealthy countries to assist big, low-income countries like India in vaccinating their populations in order to hasten the pandemic's end.

"He was gasping for air, we removed his face mask and he was crying and saying 'save me, please save me," Mohan Sharma, 17, said of his father, who died outside a Delhi hospital.

"But I could do nothing. I just watched him die," Sharma told AFP.

The week-long lockdown in the 20-million-strong metropolis, which was supposed to end on Monday, was extended by another week.

At the behest of the Indian government, Twitter withheld hundreds of tweets critical of the ongoing crisis on Sunday.

"Alarmed by the epidemiological situation in India. We are ready to support," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said.

Baghdad fire 

According to medics, the fire at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital in eastern Baghdad started when poorly stored oxygen cylinders blew up.

Many of the victims were wearing oxygen masks and were burnt or suffocated as a result of the fire.

The Iraqi Human Rights Commission stated that 28 of the victims were patients who had to be taken off ventilators to avoid the fire, according to the health ministry.

Fashion designer Alber Elbaz, who died at the age of 59 after a struggle with Covid-19, presented yet another high-profile example of the virus's immediacy.

Until his ouster in 2015, Elbaz was known for his playful designs that transformed the storied French house, Lanvin.

With 67,977 deaths so far since the outbreak began in South America, April has been the deadliest month in Brazil since the outbreak began. After the United States, the world has the second-highest national death rate with 389,000 deaths.

On Sunday, however, a limited glimpse of pre-pandemic life will be on show in the United States, with an Oscars ceremony bringing together some of Hollywood's A-listers for the first time in over a year.

With a smaller guest list and organizers promising only a "teeny-tiny red carpet," the typical high-wattage glamour would be more muted.

A limited number of spectators may be permitted to attend the Monaco Grand Prix on May 23, according to Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali.

However, Bianca Andreescu, the world number six, will miss the Madrid Open after testing positive for Covid-19 shortly after landing in Spain, according to the world number six on Twitter.

Share this story