Wednesday, 05 May, 2021


India’s crematoria overwhelmed as coronavirus ‘swallows people like a monster’

India's crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of infections India's crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of infections Credit AP
Patty Aguilar | 25 April, 2021, 23:07

With life-saving oxygen in short supply, family members in India are left on their own to ferry coronavirus patients from hospital to hospital in search of treatment as the country is engulfed in a devastating new surge of infections.

The number of cases across the country of about 1.3 billion rose overnight by 349,691, India's Health Ministry said on Sunday, for a total of 16.96 million cases.

Jitender Singh Shunty, who runs a non-profit medical service in India's capitol, said that 78 bodies were cremated in a single day at one location on Tuesday He said past year, the maximum number of bodies he helped cremate in one day was 18.

All images are copyrighted. "We can't give oxygen through cylinders as our beds are connected through a central line and we don't have them", he said at 10.30 am.

Outside a Sikh temple in Ghaziabad city on the outskirts of Delhi the street resembled an emergency ward of a hospital, but crammed with cars carrying COVID-19 patients gasping for breath as they were hooked up to hand-held oxygen tanks.

The U.S.is maintaining its ban of exports of raw materials for manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, despite India's request to lift the restrictions.

But the crisis in the country of almost 1.4 billion people was deepening, amid criticism of the government's response and allegations that the scarce supplies of oxygen had been diverted by local officials to hospitals in their areas.

The situation is equally grim at unbearably full hospitals, where desperate people are dying in queues, sometimes on the roads outside, waiting to see doctors. Hospitals and patients alike are struggling to procure scarce medical equipment that is being sold at inflated prices.

Currently, there are 25,52,940 active cases of COVID-19 in the country.

When the virus first erupted in India past year, Modi imposed a harsh, nationwide lockdown for months to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Lok Nayak Hospital director Sureshh Kumar said that oxygen will only last for two hours.

The government ramped up its efforts to get medical oxygen to hospitals using special Oxygen Express trains, air force planes and trucks to transport tankers.

Dr Krutika Kuppalli, assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the Medical University of SC, said the Indian government has been "very reactive to this situation rather than being proactive".

"Most importantly, they should have looked at what was going on in other parts of the world and understood that it was a matter of time before they would be in a similar situation", Kuppalli said.

India said this week it would soon expand its vaccination program from people aged 45 to include all adults, some 900 million people - well more than the entire population of the entire European Union and United States combined.

She called the government's premature declarations of victory over the pandemic a "false narrative", which encouraged people to relax health measures when they should have continued strict adherence to physical distancing, wearing masks and avoiding large crowds.

Now, with the death toll mounting, his Hindu nationalist government is trying to quell critical voices.

"We are determined to support the people of India through this very difficult time, and I am hugely grateful to those who have worked hard to make this initial delivery happen", said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock. The company said it had responded to an order by the government and notified people whose tweets were withheld.

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