India’s coronavirus death toll nears grim milestone of 200,000 dead with 2,771 more deaths reported as its armed forces pledge to provide urgent medical aid to help fight this appalling peak infections.
In the past 24 hours, India recorded 323,144 new cases on Tuesday, slightly below the global high of 352,991 reached on Monday as overwhelmed hospitals turned down patients due to a shortage of beds and oxygen supplies .
India, home to around 1.3 billion people, has so far reported 17.64 million COVID-19 infections and 197,894 deaths, but experts believe the tally is significantly higher.
“Please note that a huge drop in daily cases … is largely due to a sharp drop in testing,” said Rijo M John, professor and health economist at the Indian Institute of Management in South Kerala on Twitter. .
“This should not be taken as an indication of declining cases, but rather as a matter of missing too many positive cases!”
The Indian government has called on its armed forces to help tackle the devastating crisis.
Defense Chief of Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat said Monday evening oxygen would be released from armed forces reserves and retired medical staff would join health facilities struggling under pressure. large number of cases.
Informing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the army’s preparations to deal with the crisis, Rawat said all oxygen cylinders the army possessed would be diverted to hospitals in need of vital gas.
Other retired doctors have been urged to provide consultations through emergency helplines, according to a government statement.
Nurses and doctors recruited from the military headquarters will be deployed to help overworked health workers.
Oxygen shortage across the country
The first “Oxygen Express” train to Delhi carrying around 70 tonnes of vital gas also reached the nation’s capital early on Tuesday.
But the crisis in the metropolis of 20 million people continues unabated.
Dr K Preetham, chief of medical administration at the city’s Indian Spinal Cord Injury Center, which treats dozens of COVID-19 patients, said the oxygen shortage was such that the hospital was dividing the bottles. oxygen between patients.
“For the past seven days, most of us haven’t slept. Due to the scarcity we are forced to place two patients on a cylinder and it is a time consuming process because we do not have long tubes, ”he said.
Hospitals, patients and their families and friends in other major cities have also made desperate appeals for medical oxygen, hospital beds and medicine.
Many patients have been forced to turn to the black market where the prices of life-saving drugs and oxygen cylinders have skyrocketed.
In some of India’s worst-hit cities, bodies were cremated in makeshift installations in parks and car parks.
At the Sarai Kale Khan cremation site in Delhi, for example, around 60 to 70 bodies are processed each day, beyond its usual capacity of 22.
Now at least 100 new platforms for funeral pyres were being erected in a nearby area, in anticipation of rising death rates, according to media reports.
Other cities and administrative bodies are also running out of land for burials and cremations, due to the large number of deaths linked to the virus.
R Ashoka, a minister in the state of Karnataka in the south of the country, told India’s NDTV network that the regional government is identifying land for temporary crematoria on the outskirts of the state capital, Bengaluru.
British medical aid is coming
The United States Chamber of Commerce warned India’s economy, the sixth largest in the world, could weaken due to soaring cases, putting a damper on the global economy.
“We expect it to get worse before it gets better,” Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the House, America’s largest business lobby, told Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, several countries, including Britain, Germany and the United States, have pledged help, while American Indians in the U.S. Congress and tech industry have joined forces to help.
A shipment of vital medical supplies from the UK, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in New Delhi early Tuesday.
International cooperation at work! Appreciate the shipment of 🇬🇧 vital medical supplies including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators which arrived early this morning. pic.twitter.com/MBZFwSn4cH
– Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) April 27, 2021
France is also sending oxygen generators that can provide year-round oxygen for 250 beds, the embassy said.
Australia has suspended direct passenger flights from India until May 15, the latest in a growing list of countries to curb travel from India to prevent virulent variants of the virus from enter their borders.
Three Australian cricketers cut short their Indian Premier League season to return home in limbo.
The country is negotiating with the United States, which has said it will share 60 million doses AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine with other countries.
“Major lobbying is underway right now to get as much as possible for India,” a senior Indian official in the ongoing negotiations told Reuters, adding that Modi had been assured India would be given priority.
“At this point, even the harshest critics of India are pushing the US regime” to help India, the official added.