The World Health Organization (WHO) said the wave of COVID-19 infections in India was the result of a “perfect storm” of mass gatherings, more contagious variants and low vaccination rates.
New cases of the coronavirus in India remained above 300,000 for a sixth consecutive day on Tuesday, as its armed forces pledged urgent medical aid to help fight the staggering spike in infections that is overwhelming its hospitals and crematoriums.
WHO is providing critical equipment and supplies to India, including 4,000 oxygen concentrators, which only require one source of power, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.
The death toll in India now stands at 200,000, and hospitals that lack sufficient oxygen and beds are turning away coronavirus patients.
“Part of the problem now is that many people rush to the hospital (also because they don’t have access to information / advice), even though home care follow-up can be managed in a way. very safe, ”said Jasarevic.
Less than 15% of people infected with COVID-19 need hospital care and even fewer will need oxygen, he added.
Centers at the community level are expected to screen and triage patients and provide advice on home care safety, while information is also made available through hotlines or dashboards, he said.
“As is the case in any country, the WHO has said that the combination of relaxing individual protection measures, mass gatherings and more contagious variants while vaccine coverage is still low may create a perfect storm, ”he said.
The crisis has led several countries to ban flights from India, including Canada, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates.
Australia also suspended all direct passenger flights from India on Tuesday until May 15, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
“ Devastating ” situation
A doctor in India’s capital New Delhi said the situation in Indian hospitals was “utterly devastating”, with ventilators and intensive care beds fully occupied.
“There are no beds in the wards, our emergency room is full of patients, they have nowhere to go,” Sumit Ray told Al Jazeera via Skype.
“Our young resident doctors and nurses are totally traumatized. They work very hard but they are emotionally devastated, ”he added.
The Indian government has called on its armed forces to help deal with the situation, which many have described as the worst health crisis in modern Indian history.
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.
Many patients have been forced to turn to the black market where the prices of life-saving drugs and oxygen cylinders have skyrocketed.
Countries step up aid
Vital medical supplies started arriving in India on Tuesday. A shipment from Britain, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in the capital, New Delhi, although a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain had no excess COVID-19 vaccine doses to spare.
France is sending eight large oxygen-generating plants this week, while Ireland, Germany and Australia are shipping oxygen concentrators and ventilators, an Indian Foreign Ministry official said, stressing the need. crucial oxygen.
India’s first ‘Oxygen Express’ train arrived in New Delhi loaded with around 70 tonnes of oxygen from an eastern state, but the crisis did not abate in the 20 million city. inhabitants at the epicenter of the world’s deadliest wave of infections.
Senior US officials have pledged continued support for India to deal with its coronavirus crisis and said the country remains at the forefront of the crisis.
White House National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell said during a call for information on the US response that President Joe Biden told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday during of a phone call: “You let me know what you need and we will. do it.”
Biden told a press briefing Tuesday that he had spoken at length with Modi, including when the United States could ship vaccines to the country of 1.3 billion people, and said that he clearly intended to do so.
The president did not give a specific date for the start of vaccine shipments, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that the United States could start sending up to 60 million doses of vaccine against the AstraZeneca coronavirus in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Biden said the United States will begin shipping other supplies and providing assistance to India, including remdesivir, Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug, and the mechanical parts needed for the machines it has at its disposal. to make a vaccine.