Reuters/ New Delhi
Many Indian hospitals were scrambling for beds and oxygen as Covid-19 infections surged to a new daily record yesterday, with a second wave of infections centred on Maharashtra.
Experts blamed everything from official complacency to aggressive variants. The government blamed a widespread failure to practise physical distancing and wear face masks. “The situation is horrible,” said Avinash Gawande, an official at a government hospital in Nagpur that was battling a flood of patients, as were hospitals in neighbouring Gujarat state and New Delhi in the north.
“We are a 900-bed hospital, but there are about 60 patients waiting and we don’t have space for them.”
Maharashtra, home to the financial capital of Mumbai, began a lockdown at midnight, a move that spurred a rush to stockpile essential items in advance.
At Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital in New Delhi, the country’s largest facility treating Covid-19 patients, two or three patients were seen sharing single beds in some wards as overworked doctors attended to them. Covid-positive patients – from a one-and-a-half-year-old toddler to many elderly – and their relatives kept streaming in to the emergency ward at LNJP, arriving by ambulance, cars or auto-rickshaws through the day.
“Last year also we have not seen such a bad situation. This time the number is very high and increasing very rapidly, going (at a) very fast speed, so the situation is really alarming,” said LNJP Medical Director Suresh Kumar.
“We are definitely overburdened...Today we have 158 admissions in Lok Nayak alone. All sick patients, all severe patients,” Kumar added.
Despite injecting about 114mn vaccine doses, the highest figure worldwide after the US and China, India has covered only a small part of its 1.4bn people.
India yesterday said regulators would decide on emergency-use applications for foreign Covid-19 vaccines within three working days, as it tries to attract Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna to sell their shots.
In New Delhi, authorities ordered a weekend curfew, placing curbs on shopping malls, gyms, restaurants and some weekly markets. Outside a major city mortuary, weeping relatives gathered in the hot sun, waiting for the bodies of loved ones to be released.
Daily virus cases double to 200,000 in 10 days
India’s daily coronavirus caseload has doubled in 10 days, with a record 200,000 new infections logged yesterday. Having let its guard down with mass religious festivals, political rallies and crowds at cricket matches, India is experiencing a vicious second wave, recording almost 2mn fresh infections this month alone. Many states are now tightening the screws, in particular Maharashtra. The capital New Delhi on Thursday became the latest to impose a weekend curfew and ordering shopping malls, gyms and spas to stay shut from today evening. Late yesterday, the ministry of culture said that all major monuments, including India’s top tourist attraction the Taj Mahal, would be shut until April 15 amid the surge.
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