Country reports 200,739 cases, skyrocketing past 14 million overall, as intensifying outbreak puts a grim weight on its fragile healthcare system.
India has reported a record 200,739 COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, according to data issued by the health ministry, as many hospitals treating coronavirus patients reported severe shortages of beds and oxygen supplies.
Deaths stood at 1,038, taking the total to 173,123, the data showed on Thursday. The country’s total caseload reached 14.1 million, just behind the United States that leads the global tally with 31.4 million cases.
According to the statistics, the nation’s capital New Delhi recorded 17,282 cases over the past 24 hours – the highest single-day figure so far.
With more fatalities reported in the city, there has been a huge burden on crematoriums and burial grounds in the city.
Due to the surge in cases, there has been huge stress on the health infrastructure, with many areas reporting shortages of intensive care (ICU) beds and oxygen cylinders in several states.
New Delhi is running short of ICU beds for COVID-19 patients, with only about 171 with ventilators available late on Wednesday.
A constant stream of hearses could be seen arriving at Nigambodh Ghat, one of the main crematoriums in the city, where the waiting time for a cremation at the electric crematorium was five to six hours, NDTV news channel reported.
In Gujarat’s capital, Ahmedabad, there was a long line of ambulances where patients were being treated, as there was no space in the hospital.
Local television channels showed the angry relatives of a patient who died after spending hours on a stretcher outside a COVID-19 hospital in Jharkhand’s capital, Ranchi, where all the beds were occupied. Similar scenes could be seen in neighbouring Bihar’s capital, Patna.
Patients could be seen being treated in makeshift arrangements in corridors and lobbies of hospitals across India.
In Maharashtra, the epicentre of India’s second COVID-19 wave, two huge complexes for patients were being set up in capital Mumbai.
The state, India’s richest, reported more than 60,000 new cases on Wednesday, almost 50 per cent of India’s total.
The state government has initiated a range of curbs on movement, gatherings and commercial establishments for two weeks as infections continue to surge.
Beginning at 8pm (14:30 GMT) on Wednesday, all shops, malls and e-commerce deliveries except of essential items like food, groceries and medicine were suspended until May 1.
All manufacturing units except export-oriented ones and those manufacturing essential items would also be closed. Bars and restaurants have already been closed and gatherings of more than five people are banned across the state.
India saw a downward trend in infections starting at the end of 2020 but the numbers began rising again in mid-February.
Recent regional elections and festivals including the mammoth month-long Kumbh Mela are expected to accelerate the infection rate further.
India’s vaccine campaign started in January with the aim of inoculating 300 million of its 1.35 billion population by July.
More than 111 million vaccine doses have been given so far, of which 13 million were second doses, the health ministry said.