BENGALURU: India’s COVID-19 infections crossed the 18 million mark on Thursday (Apr 29) with almost 380,000 new cases, breaking another world record.
The explosion in infections, blamed in part on a new virus variant as well as mass political and religious events, has overwhelmed hospitals with dire shortages of beds, drugs and oxygen.
According to health ministry data, India reported 379,257 new cases and a record 3,645 new deaths, taking its total caseload to 18.38 million and fatalities to 204,832.
This month alone, India has added more than 6 million new cases.
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The government’s chief scientific advisor K Vijay Raghavan said in an interview with the Indian Express newspaper that the government could have done more to prepare for the second wave.
“There were major efforts by central and state governments in ramping up hospital and healthcare infrastructure during the first wave … But as that wave declined, so perhaps did the sense of urgency,” he said.
But “it is just not possible to amplify the capacities of a public health system within a year to a level that would be sufficient to cope with what we are seeing now”, he added.
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The crisis is particularly severe in New Delhi, with people dying outside packed hospitals where three people are often forced to share beds.
Ambulances have been taking the bodies of COVID-19 victims to makeshift crematorium facilities in parks and parking lots, where bodies burned on rows and rows of funeral pyres.
The World Health Organization said in its weekly epidemiological update that India accounted for 38 per cent of the 5.7 million cases reported worldwide to it last week.
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Many nations have rushed to help, sending desperately needed oxygen and aid.
As part of the global effort, Singapore said Wednesday it had sent two planeloads of oxygen supplies, and Germany will deliver 120 ventilators and plans to set up oxygen production.
Russia said it was sending emergency help to the country – including oxygen support, ventilators and medicine – while Switzerland was sending US$1 million in aid for hospitals.
Britain also announced Wednesday it was sending three oxygen “factories” the size of containers to India following a first consignment of aid this week.
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The United States is sending supplies worth more than US$100 million to India, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, the White House announced on Wednesday.
Taiwan on Thursday said it had bought 150 oxygen concentrators and aimed to send them to India this weekend.
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