India on Thursday reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections as a grim coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country sends more and more sick people into a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.
The 314,835 infections added in the past 24 hours raise India’s total past 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began. It’s the second-highest total in the world next to the United States. India has nearly 1.4 billion people, reports AP.
Fatalities rose by 2,104 in the past 24 hours, raising India’s overall death toll to 184,657, the Health Ministry said.
A large number of hospitals are reporting acute shortages of beds and medicine and are running on dangerously low levels of oxygen.
The New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals to save people’s lives. “You can’t have people die because there is no oxygen. Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency,” the judges said responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital seeking its intervention.
The government is rushing oxygen tankers to replenish supplies to hospitals.
India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday that “demand and supply is being monitored round the clock.” He said in a tweet that to address the exponential spike in demand, the government has increased the quota of oxygen for the worst-hit seven states.
Lockdowns and strict curbs have brought pain, fear and agony to many lives in New Delhi and other cities.
In scenes familiar across the country, ambulances are seen rushing from one hospital to another, trying to find an empty bed. Grieving relatives are lining up outside crematoriums where the arrival of dead bodies has jumped several times.
“I get numerous calls every day from patients desperate for a bed. The demand is far too much than the supply,” said Dr. Sanjay Gururaj, a doctor at Bengaluru-based Shanti Hospital and Research Center.
“I try to find beds for patients every day, and it’s been incredibly frustrating to not be able to help them. In the last week, three patients of mine have died at home because they were unable to get beds. As a doctor, it’s an awful feeling,” Gururaj said.