Much-needed medical supplies flowed into India on Tuesday as overcrowded hospitals shot down patients due to lack of beds and oxygen and an increase in infections pushed Covid-19’s death to 200,000.
Dispatch of medical supplies from the UK, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in Delhi early on Tuesday, Reuters partner ANI reported.
France is also sending oxygen generators that can deliver year-long oxygen for 250 beds, the embassy said.
The first “Oxygen Express” train for Delhi carrying about 70 tonnes of the rescue gas from the eastern state of Chhattisgarh also reached the national capital early on Tuesday.
But the crisis in the metropolis of 20 million people, the epicenter of the latest wave of infections, has continued unabated.
Dr K. Preetham, head of medical administration at the Indian Spine Injury Center in Delhi, said the shortage of oxygen is the main concern.
“For seven days, most of us have not slept. Due to the shortage, we are forced to put two patients on one cylinder and this is a long process because we don’t have long tubes, ”he said.
Over the past 24 hours, India has registered 323,144 new cases, slightly below a world peak of 352,991, which it reached on Monday. Deaths increased by 2,771 to 197,894.
Rijo M John, a professor and health economist at the Indian Institute of Management in the southern state of Kerala, said the drop in cases was largely due to a drop in testing.
“This should not be seen as an indication of falling cases, rather as a matter of losing too many positive cases!” he said on Twitter.
‘Worse before it gets better’
India has called on its armed forces to help deal with the devastating crisis. Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat said late Monday that oxygen would be released by armed forces and that retired doctors would join Indian health facilities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all citizens to get vaccinated and be careful in the midst of the “storm” of infections.
In some of India’s most affected cities, bodies have been cremated in makeshift facilities in parks and car parks. Critically ill patients lay on beds outside overcrowded hospitals awaiting admission.
India has added hospital beds by transforming hotels, railway wagons and ashrams into critical care facilities, but experts warn that the next crisis will be a shortage of doctors and nurses.
“Unfortunately beds do not treat patients – doctors, nurses and paramedics,” said Dr Devi Shetty, heart surgeon and president of Narayana Health hospital.
The Indian Medical Association said private hospitals in the western city of Surat in Gujarat state will have to close if they do not receive oxygen supplies soon.
“All patients will have to be transferred to government hospitals. We fear that a law and order situation could occur,” the association said in a letter to Prime Minister Vijay Rupani.
Many local companies, including Tata Group, Reliance Industries Ltd and Jindal Steel and Power, have stepped forward to help supply medical oxygen.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned that the Indian economy, the sixth largest in the world, could falter as a result of the rise in cases, creating a pull for the global economy.
“We expect this could get worse before it gets better,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the House, the U.S.’s largest trade lobby. Reuters.
Australia paused direct passenger flights from India until May 15, the latest in a growing list of countries to impose shores to prevent more virulent virus variants from entering its borders.
Three Australian cricketers have shortened their Indian Premier League (IPL) season to go home amid the uncertainty. Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin also came out of the popular Twenty20 contest.
“My family and extended family are fighting Covid-19 and I want to support them during these difficult times,” Ashwin said on Twitter.
Vaccine demand exceeds supply
India, home to about 1.3 billion people, has so far reported 17.64 million Covid-19 infections, but experts believe the count is much higher.
Vaccine demand has exceeded supply in India, with companies struggling to increase production, in part due to a lack of raw materials and a fire at a facility firing the AstraZeneca.
India’s hardest-hit state, Maharashtra, home to the financial capital Mumbai, could delay inoculation for those between the ages of 18 and 45 amid supply uncertainties, a government official said. India plans to open vaccination to all adults as of May 1st.
The country is in talks with the United States, which has said it will share 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine with other countries.
“A major lobby group is present at this time to ensure as much as possible for India,” a senior Indian official part of ongoing negotiations said. Reuters, adding that Modi has been assured that India will be a priority.