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Cemetery workers helping people to cremate the bodies of Covid-19 victims in New Delhi
Cemetery workers helping people to cremate the bodies of Covid-19 victims in New Delhi
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Covid-19: India records world record 315,000 new cases in a single day as crisis worsens

It now has the world’s second-highest level of infections.
Apr 22nd 2021, 7:22 AM 26,148 38

INDIA HAS POSTED a global record of almost 315,000 new Covid infections as hospitals in New Delhi sent out warnings that patients could die without fresh oxygen supplies.

The country’s long-underfunded health system is being stretched to the limit by a devastating second wave of the virus being blamed on a new variant and super-spreader events.

Health ministry data published on Thursday showed 314,835 new infections in the past 24 hours, the most of any country since the pandemic began, taking total cases to 15.9 million, the world’s second-highest.

There were also 2,074 fatalities in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to almost 185,000.

The number of deaths and cases in India are considerably lower on a per capita basis than many other countries – largely due to the country’s population of 1.3 billion people.

Major private and government-run hospitals in the capital New Delhi have sent out urgent appeals to the central government, calling for immediate supply of oxygen for hundreds of patients on ventilator support.

On Wednesday, nearly 500 tonnes of oxygen were supplied to Delhi but this fell short of the required 700 tonnes per day.

The city’s government, run by a different party to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national administration, has accused neighbouring states governed by Modi’s party of holding up supplies.

Late Wednesday the Delhi High Court ordered the government to ensure safe passage of oxygen supplies from factories to hospitals across India.

“We cannot let people die due to lack of oxygen… you beg, borrow and steal but have to provide,” the judges said, asking why the government is “not waking up to the gravity of the situation”.

Highlighting the strain on health authorities, 22 patients died in a hospital in western India after an oxygen leak cut off the supply to 60 ventilators for half an hour on Wednesday.

Recent months have seen mass gatherings, including millions attending the Kumbh Mela religious festival, as well as political rallies, large weddings and international cricket matches.

Production of key coronavirus drugs slowed or even halted at some factories and there were delays inviting bids for oxygen generation plants, according to reports.

Distraught relatives are now being forced to pay exorbitant rates on the black market for medicines and oxygen and WhatsApp groups are hot with desperate pleas for help.

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virus-outbreak-india Multiple funeral pyres of patients who died of Covid-19 in New Delhi Source: AP/PA Images

States across India have imposed restrictions, with Delhi in a week-long lockdown, all non-essential shops shut in Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh set for a weekend lockdown.

The United States now advises against travelling to India, even for those fully vaccinated, while Britain has added India to its “red list”. Hong Kong and New Zealand have banned flights.

However, a decision by the Irish government on the possible addition of India to the mandatory hotel quarantine list has not been made, despite a meeting yesterday to discuss the issue.

India’s vaccine programme has also hit supply hurdles, prompting New Delhi to stop exports of the AstraZeneca shot, which is manufactured locally by the Serum Institute.

India has administered more than 130 million vaccine so far and from 1 May, all adults will be eligible for a vaccine.

© AFP 2021 with reporting by Stephen McDermott

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