India’s coronavirus death toll has surpassed 200,000 as the country suffers from a devastating surge in infections.
The country is in crisis as victims’ bodies are burned in desperation and families queue up in heartbreaking offers to save their oxygen supplies.
On Wednesday, India recorded the deadliest day of the pandemic to date as shortages of oxygen, medical supplies and hospital staff left the population vulnerable to a record number of new infections.
In the capital, New Delhi, ambulances stood for hours to take the victims to makeshift crematoriums in parks and parking lots, where corpses were burned on rows of pyres.
And coronavirus sufferers, many of whom are gasping for breath, must seek help to save their own lives. They flock to a Sikh temple on the outskirts of the city in hopes of getting limited oxygen supplies.
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Governments around the world, able to relax their own lockdowns as vaccine rollouts contain the virus, are urged to help India as its health system is overwhelmed at a critically late stage in the pandemic.
In the second wave of infections, at least 300,000 people tested positive every day for the past week.
The crisis is overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums and is leading to an increasingly urgent international response.
The past 24 hours brought in 360,960 new cases for the world’s largest single-day total, bringing India’s infection count to nearly 18 million.
It was also the deadliest day yet, with 3,293 deaths, bringing the death toll to 201,187.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said people were getting sick more seriously and for longer, and increasing the pressure.
“The current wave is particularly dangerous,” he said. “It is extremely contagious and those who become infected with it cannot recover quickly. Intensive care units are in great demand in these conditions.”
However, experts believe India’s official record greatly underestimates the true number of victims in a nation of 1.3 billion people.
India has been added to the list of travel bans around the world as authorities fear that the new and highly contagious variant pervading the country could pose a new threat worldwide.
Boris Johnson’s government put India on the UK’s “red list” last Friday, severely restricting travel from the country.
The UK’s first aid shipment of 200 medical ventilators and oxygen machines landed in Delhi this week.
But Indian officials are hoping for a flood of supplies, including vaccines, to help speed adoption.
A Downing Street spokesman said Tuesday the UK would not send vaccine doses directly to India.
“We are going through the UK’s list of priorities for our domestic rollout and we have no excess doses, but we will continue to review,” said the Prime Minister’s spokesman.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he had spoken extensively with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on issues such as when the United States could ship vaccines to the nation and told reporters that it was his clear intention.
Mr Modi faces mounting anger in India over his government’s handling of the pandemic outbreak.
The Indian prime minister has been criticized for continuing to address tens of thousands of people at state election rallies while infection rates rose and for bringing Hindu supporters together for a festival despite the growing crisis.
The world is in a critical phase of the pandemic and needs to be vaccinated for all adults as soon as possible, said Udaya Regmi, South Asian director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“This is both an ethical and a public imperative,” he added. “As the variants continue to spread, this pandemic is far from over until the whole world is safe.”