04/22/2021, 17.07
INDIA
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COVID-19: New Delhi hospitals running out of oxygen supplies as people fight for survival

by Nirmala Carvalho

The lasted wave is getting worse with 314,835 new cases, the highest in the world for a single day since the start of the pandemic. Makeshift crematoria are set up along the Ganges, while oxygen cylinders are transported under escort for fear of looting.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The flow of heart-breaking news from India continues. People are dying on stretchers waiting for hours for an oxygen cylinder that never comes while families outside hospitals beg for a bed for a loved one sick with COVID-19.

The latest wave of the pandemic has the country on its knees and shows no signs of slowing down, racking up a sad series of records since the start of the pandemic.

Yesterday 314,835 new cases were reported, the highest in the world for a single day. Not even at its worst in January did the United States reach this number. The death toll instead hovers above 2,000 people a day for a total of 184,657.

And many sources are claiming that the official figures underestimate the true picture since in many cities they do not match the numbers provided by crematoria.

In Lucknow, in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh, families are given tokens to pick up the bodies of their loved ones but are asked to wait, often for hours. Funerals now can cost 10 times the usual price.

On the banks of the Ganges, funeral pyres blaze away. Makeshift crematoria have been set up in parks and footpaths. In the State of Karnataka, the authorities have authorised cremations on private land.

The current crisis is blamed on the excessive optimism of just two months ago, when the daily cases had dropped to 10,000 and many believed that herd immunity had been achieved. Fingers have also been pointed at election rallies as well as large religious gatherings such as the Kumbh Mela.

From one part of the country to the other, the greatest concern now is the lack of oxygen supplies, a real paradox considering that India is the world’s largest manufacturer of medical oxygen.

Its exports since the start of the pandemic jumped 700 per cent, but now the lack of supplies and the country’s inability to meet domestic demands have become a major controversy, despite the reassurances of the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In New Delhi, hospitals are reporting that they only have a few hours of supplies. In several states, vans carrying cylinders are escorted for fear of looting. In a hospital in Nashik (Maharashtra), a leaking oxygen tank caused the death of 22 COVID-19 patients.

Flights from India have been banned in the United Kingdom following the discovery a few weeks ago of a double mutant variant of the virus, whose impact on the exponential growth of the infection in New Delhi remains unclear.

Meanwhile, the vaccination rollout in India has reached 132 million; in eight large states of the country, 10 per cent of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Prime Minister Modi announced that the third phase of the campaign will start on 1 May for people over 18. However, supply remains a concern.

The federal government, which buys the vaccines from Indian manufacturers at a controlled price, reserved the right to provide them free of charge only to people 45 and older.

For all the other age groups, it is up to Indian states to provide the vaccine and negotiate the price with suppliers. Many fear that this will lead to speculation, at the expense of the poorest segments of the population.

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