India reports record new Covid cases for fifth straight day

Medical staff in PSA caring for a person at the Covid-19 Temporary Care Center 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 consecutive year on Monday, while the official death toll also rose.

Official data showed that 352,991 new cases were reported within 24 hours as the total number of infections exceeded 17 million.

At least 2,812 people died, bringing the death toll to over 195,000 – media reports suggest the official death rate is likely undercounted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been criticized for gathering large crowds for religious festivals and election campaigns in different parts of the country this year. Before the second wave, India had an average of around 10,000 new cases per day.

In April alone, the South Asian nation reported more than 5 million new cases, marginalizing the country’s health system.

Hospitals run out of beds and are also turning away from seriously ill patients. There is a serious shortage of oxygen supply, partly due to an uneven distribution between states. This has resulted in the deaths of many Covid-19 patients as the government strives to ensure supplies to the worst hit states by road, rail and air.

“It put a heavy strain on healthcare infrastructure, supplies and oxygen, as the amount of materials needed was four times what it was in the first wave,” Naresh Trehan, chairman of Medanta Hospital, told CNBC Street Signs Asia on Monday .

“We are actually having trouble coping with all of this,” he said. Additional measures are being taken to create more beds and to stimulate the production of more personal protective equipment and medicines. India’s “weak point”, however, is the lack of medical oxygen.

International answer

The international community responded with a promise to send urgently needed aid to India.

The United States will send raw materials necessary for India to advance AstraZeneca’s local manufacturing of the vaccine, as well as therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and protective equipment. It will also deploy a team of public health advisors from the Center for Disease Control and USAID to India.

This came after the UK, 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 quickly to India’s request for assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism”.

Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing was “in communication” with New Delhi and “ready to provide assistance and assistance as India needs it.”

Singapore state investor Temasek said Sunday it has partnered with Air India and Amazon India to ventilate medical devices like oxygen concentrators and ventilators from the city-state. Medical supplies have been sent to the financial capital, Mumbai, in Maharashtra, and the eastern state of West Bengal, where more and more cases are occurring.

Big tech companies like Microsoft and Google have also publicly pledged to help.

Medical workers chat among themselves at a quarantine center for patients infected with Covid-19 coronavirus in a banquet room that was being converted into an isolation center on April 15, 2021 in New Delhi, India, to treat the rising cases of infection.

Anindito Mukherjee | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Local answer

Corporate India has also stepped up its efforts to help the country secure medical supplies to relieve the burden on the health infrastructure.

Indian media reported that billionaire Mukesh Ambanis Reliance Industries will produce over 700 tons of medical-grade oxygen daily in one of its oil refineries. It is to be given free of charge to the worst affected countries.

The Tata Group announced last week that it would import 24 cryogenic containers, which are also reportedly in short supply, to carry liquid oxygen. In the meantime, Jindal Steel and Power have announced that they will supply hospitals in dire need of it with 500 tons of liquid oxygen.

Indian social media users have also taken to the platforms to coordinate availability and access to medical care, oxygen bottles and other forms of assistance.

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