India breaks yet another black Covid record

India’s coronavirus cases climbed again on Friday, prompting the army to open up its hospitals in a desperate bid to control a massive humanitarian crisis created by an acute shortage of beds, medicines and oxygen, AP reported. At the same time people are flooding social media and messaging apps with heartbreaking pleas for oxygen, medicines and room in intensive care units.

With 386,452 new cases, India now has reported more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the US. The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 3,498 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an undercount, but it’s unclear by how much. 

India’s army chief M.M. Naravane met with PM Narendra Modi on Thursday to discuss the crisis. Naravane said the sick can approach their nearest army hospitals for help. Troops were also assisting with imported oxygen tankers and vehicles where specialised skills are required, a government statement said. 

Experts have blamed the surge on new, more contagious virus variants and mass public gatherings such as political rallies and religious events that were allowed to continue. On Thursday, millions voted in state elections in West Bengal with little or no regard to social distancing. 

In the southern state of Karnataka, nearly 2,000 coronavirus patients under home care have switched off their phones and cannot be traced. Police were trying to track them as they might be seeking hospitalisation on their own. In central Madhya Pradesh state, three villages in Balaghat district have pooled money to convert buildings into Covid-19 care centres. They have purchased oxygen concentrators and started admitting patients. 

India plans to step up a faltering vaccination drive by allowing all adults 18 and older to get their jabs from Saturday. It has so far administered 150 million vaccine doses, according to the Health Ministry. Since January, nearly 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5% have received both, though India is one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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