India has recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 314,835 new COVID-19 infections as a second wave of the pandemic raised new fears about the crumbling health services’ ability to cope.
Health officials across northern and western India including the capital, New Delhi, said they were in crisis, with most hospitals full and running out of oxygen on Thursday.
Some doctors were advising patients to stay at home, while a crematorium in the eastern city of Muzaffarpur said it was being overwhelmed with bodies and grieving families had to wait for their turn. A crematorium east of Delhi built funeral pyres in its parking lot.
“Right now there are no beds, no oxygen. Everything else is secondary,” Shahid Jameel, a virologist and director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, told Reuters news agency.
“The infrastructure is crumbling.”
Some hospitals in New Delhi had run out of oxygen and authorities in neighbouring states were stopping supplies being taken to the capital to save it for their own needs, the city’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia said.
“It might become difficult for hospitals here to save lives,” Sisodia said in a televised address.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said there was a shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, with the city needing about 5,000 more than it could find.
“We can’t call this a comfortable situation,” he told reporters.
India’s Supreme Court has likened the situation to a “national emergency” and directed the federal government to prepare a national plan on oxygen supply, essential drugs and vaccinations.