India has reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections on Thursday as a brutal second wave of coronavirus cases sends more and more sick people into a fragile healthcare system critically short of hospital beds and medical oxygen.
The infections added in the past 24 hours, mostly attributed to a so-called double mutant variant, raise India’s total past 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began.
Fatalities also rose by a record 2,104 in the past 24 hours, raising India’s overall death toll to 184,657, the health ministry said.
Here are the latest updates:
Congress party attacks Modi over vaccination policy
India’s opposition Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi has attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the vaccination policy.
Gandhi accused the government of making it costly for people aged between 18 to 45 to secure a shot due to a differential pricing mechanism.
“This is a complete abandonment of the government’s responsibility towards our youth,” read a letter sent by Gandhi to the prime minister.
“How can the same vaccine manufactured by the same company have three different prices? There is no rationale or justification that allows such arbitrary distinction,” she added.
Congress chief writes to PM over new #COVID19 vaccination policy for inoculation of people b/w 18-45 yrs of age
Letter reads “Policy implies GoI has abdicated responsibility to provide free vaccination for these citizens…Urge you to intervene & reverse ill-considered decision” pic.twitter.com/5jMypGgTmh
— ANI (@ANI) April 22, 2021
For more, read here.
‘Beg, borrow or steal, it’s a national emergency’
The New Delhi High Court 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”.
#Oxygen demand & supply is being monitored round the clock
To address the exponential spike in demand, Centre has increased quota of Oxygen for:
♦️Delhi@PMOIndia @MoHFW_INDIA #Unite2FightCorona pic.twitter.com/Cvm4EBqtq2
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) April 21, 2021
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.
Shortage of hospital beds
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.
Selling jewellery to buy oxygen
Yogesh Dixit, a resident of northern Uttar Pradesh state, said earlier this week that he had to buy two oxygen cylinders at 12,000 rupees ($160) each, more than twice the normal cost, for his ailing father because the state-run hospital in Lucknow had run out of supplies.
He bought two “because the doctors can ask for another oxygen cylinder at any time,” he said, adding that he had to sell his wife’s jewellery to meet the cost.
The Health Ministry said that of the country’s total production of 7,500 metric tonnes of oxygen per day, 6,600 metric tonnes were being allocated for medical use.
Bodies cremated on sidewalks
The main cremation ground at Lucknow, the state capital, received nearly 200 bodies on Sunday.
Shekhar Chakraborty, 68, described the scene “The bodies were everywhere, they were being cremated on sidewalks meant for walking. I have never such a flow of dead bodies in my life,” he said.
In Kanpur, another city in Uttar Pradesh state, 35 new temporary platforms have been set up on Bithoor-Sidhnath Ghat stretch along Ganges River to cremate bodies.
It also said that 75 railway coaches in the Indian capital have been turned into hospitals providing an additional 1,200 beds for COVID-19 patients.