NEW DELHI. – India ordered its armed forces yesterday to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections that are overwhelming hospitals, as countries including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged to send urgent medical aid.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said oxygen would be released to hospitals from armed forces reserves and retired medical military personnel would join Covid-19 health facilities.
And where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians, a government statement said, as new coronavirus infections hit a record peak for a fifth day.
“Air, rail, road and Sea; Heaven & earth are being moved to overcome challenges thrown up by this wave of COVID19,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter.
Modi on Sunday urged all citizens to get vaccinated and to exercise caution amid what he called a “storm” of infections, while hospitals and doctors in some northern states posted urgent notices saying they were unable to cope with the influx.
In some of the worst-hit cities, bodies were being burnt in makeshift facilities offering mass cremations.
As hospitals in Delhi and many other cities run out of beds, people have been forced to find ways to get treatment for sick patients at home.
Many have turned to the black market, where prices of essential medicines, oxygen cylinders and concentrators have skyrocketed and questionable drugs are now proliferating.
There are already several reports of people dying at the doorsteps of hospitals because they couldn’t afford to buy essential drugs and oxygen on the black market. Several oxygen cylinder suppliers are asking for at least 10 times more than the normal price.
The southern state of Karnataka, home to the tech city of Bengaluru, ordered a 14-day lockdown from Tuesday, joining the western industrial state of Maharashtra, where lockdowns run until May 1, although some states were also set to lift lockdown measures this week.
The patchy curbs, complicated by local elections and mass festival gatherings, could prompt breakouts elsewhere, as infections rose by 352,991 in the last 24 hours, with crowded hospitals running out of oxygen supplies and beds.
“Currently the hospital is in beg-and-borrow mode and it is an extreme crisis situation,” said a spokesman for the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the capital, New Delhi.
Following a fire at a hospital in the western diamond industry hub of Surat, five COVID-19 patients died after being moved to other hospitals that lacked space in their intensive care units, a municipal official said. .
Television channel NDTV broadcast images of three health workers in the eastern state of Bihar pulling a body along the ground on its way to cremation, as stretchers ran short.
“If you’ve never been to a cremation, the smell of death never leaves you,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, said on Twitter.
“My heart breaks for all my friends and family in Delhi and India going through this hell.”
India, with a population of 1,3 billion, has an official tally of 17,31 million infections and 195,123 deaths, after 2,812 deaths overnight, health ministry data showed, although health experts say the figures probably run higher. – Reuters/BBC.
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