NEW DELHI: India’s coronavirus death toll shot past 200,000 on Wednesday (Apr 28) as a relentless wave of new cases swamped hospitals and sent desperate families out into the streets of the capital in search of oxygen supplies and medicine.
The vast south Asian nation of 1.3 billion is fighting a major surge of 360,000 new infections – a global daily record – and reported more than 3,000 deaths on Wednesday.
Offering a glimmer hope, the co-founder of BioNTech – which developed a COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer – said he is confident the shot works against the variant that is plaguing India.
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In New Delhi, car parks have been converted to crematoriums and the body count has sparked a shortage of wood for funeral pyres.
Relatives of the sick are crowding outside hospitals and pharmacies in search of treatment and medicines.
Priyanka Mandal, 30, has been searching for oxygen for her mother since she became sick a week ago.
“Medicines are also not available … I’ve visited five, six big medical stores,” she told AFP.
“No matter how much time it takes, I have to wait here … I only have my mum.”
‘AUSPICIOUS’ FULL MOON
Despite the raging pandemic, on Tuesday 25,000 people took part in the final bathing day at the Kumbh Mela religious festival in the northern Indian town of Haridwar, drawn to the banks of the Ganges by an “auspicious” full moon, festival official Harbeer Singh told AFP.
The gathering has attracted millions of pilgrims, mostly without masks, fomenting criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist government for allowing it to go ahead.
Desperate relatives of the sick are crowding outside New Delhi hospitals in search of treatment and medicines. (Photo: AFP/Tauseef Mustafa)
The variant of the virus feared to be contributing to the catastrophic wave in India has now been found in more than a dozen countries, the World Health Organization said.
READ: BioNTech co-founder ‘confident’ vaccine works against Indian COVID-19 variant
But the WHO has stopped short of saying it is more transmissible, more deadly or able to dodge vaccine protections.
Many nations have rushed to help, sending desperately needed oxygen and aid.
As part of the global effort, Singapore said on Wednesday it had sent two plane-loads 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 (€827,000) 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
India also looks set to receive some of the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses the United States has said it will export.
And Ugur Sahin, the co-founder of BioNTech, said the vaccine his company jointly developed with Pfizer appears to protect against the Indian variant.
“We are still testing the Indian variant, but the Indian variant has mutations that we have already tested for and which our vaccine works against, so I am confident,” said Sahin.
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