India’s toll from the coronavirus surged past 200,000 on Wednesday, the country’s deadliest day yet, as shortages of oxygen, medical supplies and hospital staff compounded a record number of new infections.

The second wave of infections has seen at least 300,000 people test positive each day for the past week, overwhelming healthcare facilities and crematoriums and driving an increasingly urgent international response.

The last 24 hours brought 360,960 new cases for the world’s largest single-day total, taking India’s tally of infections to nearly 18 million. It was also the deadliest day so far, with 3,293 fatalities carrying the toll to 201,187.

Experts believe the official tally vastly underestimates the actual toll in a nation of 1.3 billion, however.

The world is entering a critical phase of the pandemic and needs to have vaccinations available for all adults as soon as possible, said Udaya Regmi, South Asia head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“This is both an ethical and public health imperative,” he added. “As variants keep spreading, this pandemic is far from over until the whole world is safe.”

Ambulances lined up for hours in the capital, New Delhi, to take COVID-19 victims to makeshift crematorium facilities in parks and parking lots, where bodies burned on rows of funeral pyres.

Coronavirus sufferers, many struggling for breath, flocked to a Sikh temple on the city’s outskirts, hoping to secure some of its limited supplies of oxygen.

Hospitals in and around the capital said oxygen remained scarce, despite commitments to step up supplies.

“We spend the day lowering oxygen levels on our ventilators and other devices as our tanks show alarmingly dipping levels,” Dr Devlina Chakravarty, of the Artemis hospital in the suburb of Gurgaon, wrote in the Times of India newspaper.

“We make hundreds of calls and send messages every day to get our daily quota of oxygen.”

The Mayom Hospital nearby has stopped new admissions unless patients brought oxygen cylinders or concentrators with them, its chief executive, Manish Prakash, told television channel NDTV.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said people were falling sick more severely and for longer, stacking up the pressure.

“The current wave is particularly dangerous,” he said.

“It is supremely contagious and those who are contracting it are not able to recover as swiftly. In these conditions, intensive care wards are in great demand.” Read More

By Ian Dei

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