India COVID cases cross 18 million, gravediggers work round the clock
On Thursday, India’s total COVID-19 cases surpassed 18 million, setting a new world record, as gravediggers worked around the clock to bury victims and hundreds more were cremated in makeshift pyres in parks and parking lots.
According to health ministry data, India reported 379,257 new infections and 3,645 new deaths on Thursday, the highest number of fatalities in a single day since the pandemic began.
The world’s second most populous country is in a state of emergency, with hospitals and morgues overcrowded.
Sayyed Munir Kamruddin, 52, of Mumbai, said he and his colleagues were working nonstop to bury victims.
“I’m not afraid of COVID; I’ve worked with bravery. “It’s all about courage, not fear,” he explained. “This is our sole responsibility. Obtaining the body, removing it from the ambulance, and finally burying it.”
Every day, thousands of Indians use social media apps and personal contacts to search for hospital beds and life-saving oxygen for sick relatives. Hospital beds that become available, particularly in intensive care units (ICUs), are quickly filled.
“The ferocity of the second wave caught everyone off guard,” K. VijayRaghavan, the government’s principal scientific adviser, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper.
“We were all aware of second waves in other countries, but we had vaccines on hand, and no indications from modelling exercises suggested the magnitude of the surge.”
The Indian military has begun transporting critical supplies such as oxygen across the country and will open its healthcare facilities to civilians.
A top industry executive told that the oxygen crisis is expected to ease by mid-May, with output increasing by 25% and transportation systems ready to handle it.
“My expectation is that by the middle of May, we will definitely have the transportation infrastructure in place to service this demand across the country,” said Moloy Banerjee of Linde Plc (LIN.N), India’s largest oxygen producer.
To make up for the lack of hospital beds, hotels and railway coaches have been converted into critical care facilities.
Experts believe that vaccinating India’s vast population is its best hope, and the country opened registration on Wednesday for all adults over the age of 18 to begin receiving shots on Saturday.
Despite being the world’s largest producer of vaccines, India does not have enough to cover the estimated 800 million people who are now eligible.
Many people who attempted to sign up for vaccination said they were unable to do so, complaining on social media about not being able to get a slot or even get on the website because it kept crashing.
“Statistics show that, far from crashing or performing slowly, the system is operating smoothly,” the government said on Wednesday.
More than 8 million people had registered, it said, but it was unclear how many had been assigned a slot.
A local official in Mumbai said the city had paused its vaccination drive for three days due to a lack of supplies, and officials said the worst-affected state of Maharashtra was likely to extend strict coronavirus curbs for another two weeks.
DEATHS ARE LIKELY UNREPORTED
Since the vaccination campaign began in January, only about 9% of India’s 1.4 billion-person population has received a dose.
Despite the fact that the second wave has overwhelmed the health system, the official death rate is lower than in Brazil and the United States.
According to the Reuters global COVID-19 tracker, India has 147.2 deaths per million, while Brazil and the United States have 1,800 and 1,700 deaths per million, respectively.
Medical experts believe India’s true COVID-19 numbers are five to ten times higher than the official figure.
Patients arrived in ambulances and private vehicles at Delhi’s Holy Family Hospital, some gasping for air as their oxygen cylinders ran out. Patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) lay on trolleys between beds.
“Someone who should be in the ICU is being treated in the wards,” said Dr Sumit Ray, the unit’s head.
“We are completely occupied. The doctors and nurses are disheartened; they know they can do better, but they simply do not have the time. Nobody ever takes a break.”
The United States State Department issued a travel advisory against visiting India due to the pandemic on Wednesday, advising its citizens to leave the country. It also stated that family members of US government employees in India can return to the US voluntarily. more info
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been chastised for allowing massive political rallies and religious festivals in recent weeks, which have been super-spreader events.
AID BEGINS TO ARRIVE
According to Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India expects close to 550 oxygen-generating facilities from around the world as medical aid begins to pour in. more info
Two planes from Russia have arrived in Delhi, carrying 20 oxygen concentrators, 75 ventilators, 150 bedside monitors, and 22 tonnes of medicine.
The US is sending more than $100 million in supplies, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 masks, and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, according to the White House on Wednesday.
The US has also redirected its own order of AstraZeneca (AZN.L) manufacturing supplies to India, allowing it to produce more than 20 million doses, according to the White House.
On May 1, India will receive the first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, RDIF, which markets Sputnik V globally, has signed contracts with five Indian manufacturers for over 850 million vaccine doses per year.
Bangladesh stated that it would send 10,000 vials of anti-viral medicines and 30,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits.
Germany will send 120 ventilators on Saturday and a mobile oxygen production facility the following week, according to the defence ministry.