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India’s human crisis spirals with coronavirus cases climbing each day. Video / Getty
Help is on its way but it can’t arrive soon enough as India records its highest death toll in a single day since the coronavirus pandemic began.
International aid to alleviate India’s dire oxygen shortage arrived in the South Asian nation on Sunday, as its coronavirus death toll climbed to a grim new record.
The country of 1.3 billion reported 3689 coronavirus deaths on Sunday.
There were nearly 400,000 new cases registered across India in what is the world’s fastest-growing outbreak.
The record number of deaths will apply more pressure to already overstretched crematoriums and graveyards where workers are struggling to keep pace with the rising toll.
A huge international effort is under way to deliver much-needed oxygen to cities around India where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed to the point where people infected, including babies, have died while waiting for treatment outside hospitals.
“People are sometimes dying in front of the hospitals. They have no more oxygen. Sometimes (they are dying) in their cars,” said Germany’s ambassador to India, Walter Lindner, as 120 ventilators arrived late Saturday.
Long queues were seen at vaccination centres across the weekend, with people desperate to be inoculated against a disease that has overwhelmed the healthcare system.
Social media platforms have been flooded with pleas from people looking for oxygen cylinders, medicines and hospital beds as the Covid-19 wave causes widespread shortages.
The United States, Russia and Britain sent emergency supplies including oxygen generators, face masks and vaccines.
Aid from France reached India on Sunday, including eight oxygen generator plants and 28 ventilators, adding to the ventilators from Germany that arrived the previous night.
The UK, which has already sent 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators, said it was sending a further 1000 oxygen ventilators.
A group of British doctors also staged their own intervention by offering long-distance telemedicine from Britain to take the pressure off their Indian colleagues and allow them to concentrate on Covid patients.
Calls for nationwide shutdown to fight wave of infections
New Delhi, one of the hardest hit parts of India, extended its lockdown by a week on Saturday, and the eastern state of Odisha has also ordered a shutdown.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US pandemic adviser, said in comments published Saturday that the whole of India should go into lockdown to fight this wave.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has resisted imposing a national shutdown but many states have imposed heavy restrictions.
A growing list of countries including New Zealand and Australia have cut flights from India.
Australia’s flight ban on citizens stranded in India is now making news around the world.
BBC World was kind enough to let me share my views – my most, and least charitable interpretations – on the disproportionate, hurtful and unethical bans.#covid19aus https://t.co/P0osxhpV06
— Dr Vyom Sharma (@drvyom) May 2, 2021
On Sunday, Nigeria became the latest nation to do so, banning entry to all travellers who have been in the country in the last two weeks, though Nigerians and those transiting in India will be exempt.
Alarm bells are also ringing for other countries in densely populated South Asia.
In Sri Lanka, daily infections hit a record on Saturday, with authorities imposing further curbs on movement and activities in parts of the island nation.
“We could face an India-type crisis very soon unless we arrest the current trend of infections,” chief epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera said.
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