Medical staff in PPE attending to a person in the temporary Covid-19 care centre attached to LNJP Hospital, at Shehnai Banquet Hall, on April 23, 2021 in New Delhi, India.
Raj K Raj | Hindustan Times | Getty Images
India reported a record number of Covid-19 cases for the fifth straight day on Monday while the official death toll also jumped.
Official data showed there were 352,991 new reported cases over a 24-hour period as total infection numbers crossed 17 million.
At least 2,812 people died which pushed the total death toll to over 195,000 — media reports suggest that the official death rate is likely undercounted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced criticism for allowing large crowds to gather for religious festivals and election rallies in various parts of the country this year. Prior to the second wave, India had on average around 10,000 new cases daily.
But so far in April alone, the South Asian nation has reported more than 5 million new cases, sending the country’s health care system to the brink.
Hospitals have run out of beds and are turning away even critically ill patients. There is a severe oxygen supply shortage, partly due to uneven distribution across states. That has led to the deaths of many Covid-19 patients as the government scrambles to send supplies to the worst-hit states by road, rail and air.
“It has put a huge stress on the health care infrastructure, the supplies, oxygen because of the fact that the quantum of materials required has gone four times what it was in the first wave,” Naresh Trehan, chairman at Medanta hospital, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday.
“We are struggling, actually, to cope with all that,” he said, adding measures are being taken to create more beds and ramp up the production of more personal protective equipment and medicines. But India’s “weak point” is the shortage in medical-grade oxygen required.
The international community responded with promises to send India desperately needed aid.
The United States will send raw materials required for India to ramp up manufacturing of AstraZeneca’s vaccine locally, as well as therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and protective equipment. It will also send a team of public health advisors to India from the Center for Disease Control and USAID.
That came after the United Kingdom, France and Germany pledged aid over the weekend. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter that the European Union is “pooling resources to respond rapidly to India’s request for assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.”
Last week China’s foreign ministry said Beijing is “in communication” with New Delhi and that it is “ready to provide support and help according to India’s need.“
Singapore state investor Temasek said on Sunday that it partnered with Air India and Amazon India to airlift medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators and ventilators from the city-state. The medical supplies were sent to the financial capital of Mumbai in Maharashtra and the eastern state of West Bengal, where cases are rising.
Big Tech firms like Microsoft and Google have also publicly pledged to help.
Medical workers converse among themselves at a quarantine center for Covid-19 coronavirus infected patients at a banquet hall that was converted into an isolation center to handle the rising cases of infection on April 15, 2021 in New Delhi, India.
Anindito Mukherjee | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Corporate India has also stepped up efforts to help the country secure medical supplies to ease the strain on the health care infrastructure.
Indian media reported that billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries will produce over 700 tonnes of medical-grade oxygen per day at one of its oil refineries. It would reportedly be given to worst-hit states for free.
Tata Group said last week it will import 24 cryogenic containers, which are also reportedly in short supply, to transport liquid oxygen. Meanwhile Jindal Steel and Power said it will supply 500 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to hospitals that urgently need them.
Indian social media users have also taken to the platforms to coordinate availability and access to medical supplies, oxygen cylinders and other forms of aid.