India’s health system is buckling as a record surge in coronavirus cases puts pressure on hospital beds and drains oxygen supplies.
Families are left pleading for their desperately ill relatives, with some patients left untreated for hours.
Crematoriums are organizing mass funeral pyres.
India reported Friday 332730 new coronavirus cases, setting a world record for a second day running. Death toll numbered at 2263 in recent 24-hours.
India’s capital New Delhi to go into a week-long lockdown as the megacity struggles to contain a huge surge in Covid-19 cases with hospitals running out of beds and oxygen supplies low.
— NTV Kenya (@ntvkenya) April 19, 2021
India is facing an oxygen crisis
A consultant at the Sir Ganga Ram hospital in Delhi, Dr. Atul Gogia, told the media there had been a considerable surge in COVID-19 patients, leaving no space in the emergency room.
He said they don’t have that many oxygen points. Whatever oxygen points are there, they are packed, and patients come in with their oxygen cylinders or without oxygen. They want to help them, but there aren’t enough beds and enough oxygen points even to supply them oxygen if it’s there.
Dr. Atul Gogia stated that all their telephone lines are jammed. People are continuously calling the COVID helpline. Moreover, there is a big rush outside the hospital and ambulances parked, patients wanting to get deboarded, but there is no space anywhere.
Gogia added they try to mobilize, they try to discharge patients who become stable as early as possible so that they could increase the turnaround, but things are going difficult right then.
The main issue is that medical oxygen isn’t reaching hospital beds in time. The delay is a product of where production units are located, a stretched supply network, and what critics have stated is bad planning.
The worst-hit state in India, Maharashtra, faces an oxygen shortage. In the state capital, Mumbai, at least thirteen patients died after a fire broke out in the ICU of a hospital treating coronavirus patients.
Two days earlier, twenty-four COVID-19 patients died in another location of the state after a leak interrupted the oxygen flow to their ventilators.
Gujarat, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh are also facing a critical oxygen shortage. The Indian Air Force is being employed to lift oxygen tankers and supplies to several parts of India.
Why are COVID cases so high in India?
COVID cases have surged during India’s second wave, driven by several factors. Health protocols have been lax, with face-mask mandates intermittently enforced.
Moreover, millions of people attended the Kumbh Mela (a Hindu festival), which culminated ten days ago with a mass dip in The Ganges or Ganga. New strains of the coronavirus have emerged, including a ‘double mutant’ strain.
Shravan Rathod, the Bollywood composer, tested COVID positive soon after returning from Haridwar, where the Kumbh Mela was held and died not long after, as his family confirmed.
He added the United Kingdom strain is also particularly prevalent in the city of Delhi and Maharashtra.
A critical care specialist in the eastern city of Kolkata, Dr. Saswati Sinha, said emergency rooms and wards were packed to capacity.
She told the BBC that they are getting direct calls from their patients, acquaintances, and neighbors. They are pleading with them to be able to accommodate some of their next of kin. But unfortunately, their situation is such that, although they are trying their best, they still have a considerable number of patients they aren’t able to accommodate.
She added in twenty years of working in ICU, and she has never observed anything of this kind, ever.
Including for industrial use, India has a daily production capacity of at least 7100 tons of oxygen, which appears to be enough to meet present demand.
Indian PM Narendra Modi met chief ministers of the most affected states and oxygen producers on Friday (April 23). He also asked states to work together to stop hoarding and black marketeering, saying that the administration was also looking at diverting industrial oxygen to ease the crisis in the country.