Indian hospitals scramble for oxygen as daily infections pass more than 330,000 cases

Overwhelmed hospitals in Delhi said Friday they could no longer accept new cases

Queues seen forming outside hospitals in India as cases rise

Coronavirus infections in India have jumped by a record 332,730 in a single day, as the country’s hospitals struggle with limited oxygen supplies and bed shortages.

The health ministry also confirmed on Friday that 2,263 people had died from the virus within the previous 24 hours, up from the 2,104 fatalities announced on Thursday.

With the latest figures, India has now recorded 16 million Covid-19 cases, making it the second worst-affected country behind the US.

In an alarming spike in infections, the country has seen more than 200,000 new cases each day since 15 April. And on Thursday, its 314,835 infections surpassed the previous highest daily global rise of 297,430 cases, identified in the US earlier this year.

The situation in the north and west of the country is particularly acute, with reports showing that medical facilities there are unable to cope with the high rate of hospital admissions.

Max Healthcare, which operates hospitals in the country’s northern and western regions, tweeted on Friday that it can no longer accept new patients at its facilities in Delhi.

“We regret to inform that we are suspending any new patient admissions in all our hospitals in Delhi ... till oxygen supplies stabilise,” the healthcare provider said.

Commenting on such announcements, Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, said Indians now lacked a social safety net.

“Everyone is fighting for their own survival and trying to protect their loved ones. This is hard to watch,” he said.

One consultant in New Delhi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday that his hospital was contending with staff shortages, limited oxygen supply and a lack of available beds.

“We want to help them [new patients] but there’s not enough beds and not enough oxygen points,” he told the broadcaster.

A critical care doctor in Kolkata, a city in the eastern India, said her hospital was also coming under severe strain, despite case rates being a few weeks behind the current peak in New Delhi, where someone is now dying from the virus every five minutes.

“Already we are overwhelmed: all our emergency rooms, all of our beds, all of our critical care units are packed to capacity,” she said.

People have taken to social media to vent their frustration at the government’s handling of the pandemic.

In recent days, Indian authorities have allowed mass election rallies to take place in West Bengal and permitted hundreds of thousands of Hindus to congregate for the Kumbh festival.

Writing in the Times of India, Zarir F Udwadia, a pulmonologist who is part of the state task force in Maharashtra, accused the government of hubris.

“Indians let down their collective guard. Instead of being bombarded with messages exhorting us to be vigilant, we heard self-congratulatory declarations of victory from our leaders, now cruelly exposed as mere self-assured hubris,” he wrote.

Another problem is India’s vaccine rollout, as only 1.5 per cent of the population have received a jab, despite the fact that the country is producing a significant amount of jabs.

Due to its troubling coronavirus situation, India was placed on the UK’s  travel “red list” as of Friday morning.

Additional reporting from agencies

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