NEW DELHI: India recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time, the government said on Saturday (May 8).
The 4,187 new deaths took India’s overall toll to 238,270 since the pandemic started. It added another 401,078 new cases in 24 hours taking its caseload to nearly 21.9 million.
Experts, who have expressed doubts about the official death toll, say India may not hit a peak in its current surge until the end of May.
While the situation in major cities New Delhi and Mumbai is now stabilising, with extra supplies of oxygen being sent and new hospital beds opened up, COVID-19 is now spreading fast in southern states and rural areas.
Karnataka, which includes the major IT hub of Bengaluru – India’s third-largest city – has ordered a statewide two-week lockdown from Monday in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
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Bangalore, which saw 1,907 coronavirus deaths in April, has recorded more than 950 just in the first seven days of May.
A lack of oxygen and critical care beds is being blamed for the dramatic rise in the death rate.
“The problem is the demand is so high that we need constant oxygen,” Dr Sanjay Gururaj, the medical director at Shanti Hospital and Research Center, said. The hospital is sending a truck twice a day to oxygen plants on the outskirts of the city to bring back 12 jumbo oxygen cylinders. “In normal times, this would have lasted over two weeks – now, it lasts just over a day,” he added.
The state’s oxygen shortages prompted the high court on Wednesday to order the federal government to increase the daily liquid medical oxygen supplied to Karnataka. The ruling came after 24 COVID-19 patients died in a government hospital on Monday. It’s unclear how many of them died due to the lack of oxygen, but an investigation is ongoing.
The city of nine million people imposed its own restrictions on movement on Apr 25 but this has not stopped the grim statistics.
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CASES SURGING IN SOUTHERN STATES
The situation unfurling in Karnataka has thrown attention to other southern states also battling a rise in cases. Daily cases have breached the 20,000 mark for the past three days in Andhra Pradesh state, leading to new restrictions there.
Kerala, which emerged as a blueprint for tackling the pandemic last year, began a lockdown on Saturday. With daily cases crossing 40,000, the state is aggressively boosting resources, including converting hundreds of industrial oxygen cylinders into medical oxygen, said Dr Amar Fetle, the state’s officer for COVID-19.
“The magnitude of cases from last year to now is vastly different,” he said, adding that increasing numbers have meant more hospitalisations and more strain on health care systems, with hospitals running nearly full. “It’s become a race between occupancy and how fast we can add beds. We’re trying to stay ahead of the virus as best as we can.”
It’s clear infections are rapidly rising across the southern region, but there has been “less visible outcry” than in the north because of relatively better health infrastructure and government initiatives that address problems at the community level, said Jacob John, professor of community medicine at Christian Medical College, Vellore.
Coronavirus cases and deaths have also shot up in West Bengal state since its election, which was marked by huge rallies organised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his arch-rival, state chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The main city, Kolkata, also has a critical shortage of oxygen and beds.
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