India reported the world’s highest daily coronavirus infection count for a second day on Friday, surpassing 330,000 new cases as it struggles with an overwhelmed, accident-plagued healthcare system.
Deaths in the past 24 hours also jumped to a record 2,263, the health ministry said, as officials from North and West India, including the capital, New Delhi, warned that most hospitals were full and short of oxygen.
The increase in cases came as a fire in a hospital on the outskirts of Mumbai that was treating patients with COVID-19 killed 13 people, the latest incident that hit a facility crowded with virus patients.
On Wednesday, 22 patients died in a public hospital in the western state of Maharashtra when their oxygen supplies ran out from a leaking tank after at least nine others died in a hospital fire last month in the capital. of the state of Mumbai.
“It’s sad. It’s serious … there is an extreme shortage of ICU beds,” TS Singh Deo, health minister of the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, told Reuters.
“We have to be very careful in rural areas. If it spreads there, then it will be out of control.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government was criticized too soon for easing the brakes of the virus, met with key ministers from the hardest-hit states, including the capital Delhi, Maharashtra and Modi’s home state of Gujarat , to discuss the crisis.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said this week people have largely given up on COVID precautions and “got very careless” ahead of the wave.
Daily infections reached 332,730, up from 314,835 the previous day, when India set a record that surpassed the one set by the United States in January of 297,430 new cases. The US tally has since declined.
Scarcity of oxygen and beds
Delhi has reported more than 26,000 new cases and 306 deaths, or about one death every five minutes, the fastest since the pandemic began.
Medical oxygen and beds have become scarce, with major hospitals posting warnings saying they run out of room for other patients and police fanning out to secure oxygen supplies.
“We are sorry to report that we are suspending any new hospitalization of patients in all of our hospitals in Delhi … until oxygen supplies stabilize,” Max Healthcare, who runs a network of hospitals, said on Twitter. oxygen.
Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan in the United States, said it now appeared that there was no social safety net for Indians.
“Everyone is fighting for their own survival and trying to protect loved ones. This is hard to watch,” he said.
India has become complacent, health experts say
In New Delhi, people who lose loved ones are turning to makeshift facilities that are undertaking mass burials and cremations as funeral services are inundated.
In the midst of desperation, the recriminations began.
Health experts say India welcomed the winter, when new cases were about 10,000 a day and appeared to be under control, and lifted restrictions to allow for large gatherings.
“Indians lower their collective guard,” Zarir Udwadia, a pulmonologist with the Maharashtra task force, wrote in the Times of India newspaper.
“We have heard declarations of complacency of victory from our leaders, now cruelly exposed as mere self-assured arrogance.”
The government ordered a large lockdown last year in the early stages of the pandemic, but has been cautious of the economic costs and disruption to the lives of legions of poor migrant workers after any harsh re-imposition of curbs.
Modi said another lockdown would be a last resort.
A more infectious variant of the virus that originated in India may have helped accelerate the wave, experts said.
Great Britain, Canada, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates have banned flights from India.
India, a major vaccine manufacturer, has started a vaccination campaign, but only a small fraction of a population of 1.39 billion has received a dose, with experts saying supplies are scarce.