NEW DELHI – India’s coronavirus infections set a new world record for the third time in a row, rising by 346,786 overnight, the Ministry of Health announced on Saturday when overwhelmed hospitals in the densely populated country asked for oxygen.
India is in a raging second wave of the pandemic that causes one Covid-19 death in Delhi just under every four minutes as the capital’s underfunded healthcare system wears off.
The government has used military planes and trains to bring oxygen to Delhi from remote corners of the country. Televised images showed an oxygen truck arriving at the Batra Hospital in Delhi after posting an SOS call stating that there were 90 minutes of oxygen left for its 260 patients.
“Please help us to get oxygen, there will be a tragedy here,” the Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a conference on Friday.
The crisis is being felt in other parts of the country as well, as several hospitals publicly announce that they are running out of medical oxygen. Local media reported new cases of people dying from gas shortages in the cities of Jaipur and Amritsar.
India broke the US record of 297,430 one-day infections worldwide on Thursday, making it the global epicenter of a pandemic that is subsiding in many other countries. The Indian government itself said it had beaten the coronavirus back in February when new cases fell to all-time lows.
The number of deaths from Covid-19 across India rose 2,624 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily rate in the country. Crematoria all over Delhi said they were full and asked grieving families to wait.
The country of around 1.3 billion people has now recorded a total of 16.6 million cases, including 189,544 deaths.
Health experts said India became complacent over the winter when new cases at around 10,000 a day appeared and appeared to be under control, lifting the restrictions that allowed large gatherings to resume.
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Others said it could also be a more dangerous variant of the virus that runs through the world’s second most populous country where people live in close proximity.
“While complacency with sticking to masks and physical distancing may have played a role, it seems increasingly likely that this second wave was triggered by much more virulent exposure,” wrote Vikram Patel, professor of global health at Harvard Medical School Indian Express.
Mike Ryan, WHO emergency director, said reducing transmission in India was a “very difficult task” but the government was working to limit human intermingling, which he believed was essential.