Calls for more oxygen, hospital beds as India’s Covid-19 crisis deepens


More state hospital beds will be released for Covid-19 patients, India’s health minister said on Sunday as the great nation struggled with a worsening viral crisis and states appealed for further supplies of oxygen and treatment drugs.

The country of 1.3 billion people added a record 261,500 new cases on Sunday, including six people who underwent tests that gave positive coronavirus results, the ministry said.

India is the world’s second most infected nation with almost 14.8 million cases.

Hospitals that are usually reserved for employees of ministries or public sector companies should convert some of their departments into Covid-19 facilities equipped with ICUs and oxygen-bedded beds, ventilators, laboratories and healthcare staff, the government said.

“This will go a long way in addressing the shortage of beds reported by some states,” the ministry added.

Special trains would transport oxygen tankers to needy states, while the government said that oxygen use for industrial purposes would be limited.

In the capital New Delhi – the worst affected city in India – 25,500 infections were reported in the last 24 hours.

Delhi’s Prime Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted late on Sunday that there was an “acute lack of oxygen” and added in large letters that “oxygen has become an emergency” in megapolis.

“The falls are rising very fast … only 100 beds left,” Kejriwal said earlier Sunday in a video clip.

Kejriwal said additional beds would be set up at some schools and a sports complex.

His government added that millions of pilgrims attending an ongoing religious festival – Kumbh Mela – had to be quarantined for two weeks if they returned to Delhi.

Nearly 3,700 people have tested positive in the past week in the town of Haridwar, located along the Ganges River where Kumbh Mela is observed, the Uttarakhand government said.

Health experts have warned that the festival could become a “super-spreader” event.

In the state of West Bengal, where an election is being held in several phases with rival parties holding huge rallies – sparking further fears of super-spreaders – Prime Minister Mamata Banerjee has appealed for more oxygen and coronavirus drugs as a strap.

Banerjee added that her state needed more vaccines to deal with the outbreak. India has so far administered more than 122 million jabs, but some states have complained about low stocks and experts have said the launch needs to be speeded up.

Both Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party held major election campaigns on Sunday.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party, a small player in West Bengal’s votes, tweeted on Sunday that he was interrupting all his meetings in the state “given the unfortunate situation”.

In neighboring Bangladesh, officials said the country had recorded its highest daily deaths ever – 102 – since the pandemic began, to bring the total charge to 10,385.

A temporary hospital with 1,000 beds – the largest virus facility in the country – built instead of a wholesale market opened on Sunday to ease the pressure on the congested healthcare system.

Bangladesh, which is undergoing a strict national lockdown in the midst of a rise in cases, has registered 718,950 infections so far.