Vital medical supplies began arriving in India on Tuesday as hospitals ran out of oxygen and beds turned away coronavirus patients, and a spike in infections pushed the death toll to nearly 200,000.
A shipment from Britain, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in the capital New Delhi, although a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain had no surplus doses of COVID-19 vaccine to sell.
France is sending eight large oxygen-generating plants this week, while Ireland, Germany and Australia are shipping oxygen concentrators and ventilators, an Indian Foreign Ministry official said, stressing the need. crucial oxygen.
US President Joe Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to help India, saying he plans to send vaccines there, while senior officials in his administration have warned the country is still ahead – crisis guard.
India’s first ‘Oxygen Express’ train arrived in New Delhi loaded with around 70 tonnes of oxygen from an eastern state, but the crisis did not abate in the 20 million city. inhabitants at the epicenter of the world’s deadliest wave of infections.
“The current wave is extremely dangerous and contagious and hospitals are overcrowded,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, adding that a large public space in the capital will be converted into an intensive care hospital.
With growing frustration, relatives of a recently deceased COVID-19 patient assaulted staff with knives at a hospital in southeast New Delhi, injuring at least one person, a hospital spokeswoman said. .
A video posted on social media showed several people fighting with guards at the same hospital. The Delhi High Court has advised local authorities to ensure safety in hospitals.
The World Health Organization said it is working to deliver 4,000 oxygen concentrators to India, where mass gatherings, more contagious variants of the virus and low vaccination rates have sparked the second big wave of contagion.
With demand for vaccines outstripping supply in the nation of 1.3 billion people, two US drugmakers have offered their support.
Gilead Sciences (GILD.O) said Monday it would give India at least 450,000 vials of its antiviral drug remdesivir. Merck & Co (MRK.N) said on Tuesday it was working in partnership with five Indian generic drug makers to expand production and access to its investigational COVID-19 drug, molnupiravir.
India is also negotiating with the United States, which has announced it will share 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine with other countries. A senior official participating in the talks said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was assured of the priority for India.
Supply uncertainty could force Maharashtra, India’s hardest-hit state, to postpone vaccinations for people between the ages of 18 and 45, a government official said.
Biden said he spoke at length with Modi on Monday, including when the United States could ship vaccines to India, the second most populous country in the world, and said he clearly had the intention to do so.
India’s 323,144 new cases in the past 24 hours were below a global high of 352,991 hit on Monday, and 2,771 new deaths brought the toll to 197,894.
But the less confirmed infections were largely due to a drop in testing, according to health economist Rijo M John of the Indian Institute of Management in Kerala, a southern state.
“This should not be taken as an indication of declining cases, but rather as a matter of missing too many positive cases,” he said on Twitter.
The US State Department’s Coordinator for the Global Response to COVID-19, Gayle Smith, warned India’s challenge will require sustained effort: “We all need to understand that we are always at the forefront. It hasn’t peaked yet. “
Dr K. Preetham, administrator of the Indian Spinal Injuries Center, said patients had to share oxygen cylinders due to the oxygen shortage.
New Delhi is on lockdown, as is the southern state of Karnataka and Maharashtra, home to the country’s financial capital, Mumbai.
An uneven patchwork of restrictions, complicated by local elections and mass rallies such as the Kumbh Mela, or Launcher’s Festival, which lasts for weeks, could trigger COVID-19 breakouts elsewhere.
About 20,000 pious Hindus gathered near the Ganges in the northern city of Haridwar on the last auspicious day of the festival for a bath which they believe will wash away their sins.
“We think Mother Ganga will protect us,” said a woman by the river, where people were bathing with little sign of physical distancing measures.
India has turned to its armed forces for help with the pandemic. Even China, which is locked in a military standoff with India along its disputed Himalayan border, has said it is trying to deliver medical supplies to its neighbor.
In some towns, bodies were cremated in makeshift facilities in parks and parking lots. TV channels showed bodies crammed into an ambulance in the western town of Beed as transportation ran out.
India has converted hotels and railroad coaches into intensive care facilities to make up for the bed shortage, but experts say the next crisis will be the shortage of health workers.
Companies ranging from conglomerates such as Tata Group and Reliance Industries Ltd (RELI.NS) to Jindal Steel and Power (JNSP.NS) have stepped up to help deliver medical oxygen.
The US Chamber of Commerce said India’s economy, the world’s sixth-largest, could weaken due to soaring infections, putting a damper on the global economy.
Australia has suspended direct passenger flights from India until May 15, joining other countries taking action to prevent more virulent variants of the virus.
India has an official tally of 17.64 million infections, but experts believe the actual number is much higher.
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