India tops 200,000 dead, health system on the brink of collapse

Photo: AP In this April 24, 2021, file photo, multiple funeral pyres of those who died of Covid-19 burn at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium, New Delhi.

India crossed a grim milestone on Wednesday of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of new infections overwhelms health care systems on the brink of collapse, AP reported. The health ministry reported a single-day record 3,293 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 201,187.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, is the fourth to cross 200,000 deaths, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico. And as in many nations, experts believe the coronavirus infections and fatalities in India are severe undercounts.

Hospitalizations and deaths have reached record highs, overwhelming health care workers. Patients are suffocating because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out. Desperate family members are sending SOS messages on social media, hoping someone would help them find oxygen cylinders, empty hospital beds and critical drugs for their loved ones. Crematoriums have spilled over into parking lots, lighting up night skies in some cities.

Experts say huge gatherings during Hindu festivals and mammoth election rallies in some states have accelerated the unprecedented surge India is seeing now.

With its health care system sinking fast, India is now looking at other nations to pull it out of the record surge that is barreling through one state and then another. Many countries have offered assistance, including the US, which has promised to help with personal protective equipment, tests and oxygen supplies.

The national capital New Delhi is in lockdown, as are the southern states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Some other states, too, have enforced restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

India has also called on its armed forces to help fight the devastating crisis. India’s chief of Defense Staff, General Bipin Rawat, said late Monday that oxygen supplies would be released from armed forces reserves and its retired medical personnel would join health facilities to ease the pressure on doctors.

Meanwhile, India’s vaccination programme appears to be struggling. So far nearly 10% of the country’s population have received one jab, but just over 1.5% have received both vaccines.

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