Indian Hospitals Turn Away Patients in COVID-19 'Tsunami'

India's crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of infections

India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has recorded a total of 16.96 million infections and 192,311 coronavirus deaths, after 2,767 more died overnight, health ministry data showed.

A family member performs the last rites for a COVID-19 victim at a crematorium in Jammu, India, Friday, April 23, 2021.

The number of cases surged by 349,691 in the past 24 hours, the fourth straight day of record peaks.

Most hospitals in India aren't equipped with independent plants that generate oxygen directly for patients, primarily because they require an uninterrupted power supply, which is a rarity in many states.

The demand for oxygen from hospitals has almost tripled to 8,000 metric tons (8,800 tons), the federal government told the Delhi High Court last week.

Two days earlier, they had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court saying they were running out of oxygen, endangering the lives of 400 patients, of which 262 were being treated for Covid-19.

Delhivery's co-founder Sahil Barua announced in a Linkedin post: "We are flying charters into India with oxygen concentrators and other essential supplies and can build more capacity on-demand".
The court, which was hearing submissions by a group of hospitals over the oxygen shortages, termed the devastating rise in infections a "tsunami".

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 New Delhi Television channel later cited the hospital chairman as saying the deaths can not be ascribed to a lack of oxygen.

The coronavirus pandemic is raging in India.

"Our supply was delayed by seven-eight hours on Friday night and the stock we received last night is only 40% of the required supply", the newspaper quoted the hospital's medical superintendent, Dr. D.K. Baluja, as saying. Authorities lifted restrictions, allowing for the resumption of big gatherings.

The government said Saturday it would exempt vaccines, oxygen and other oxygen-related equipment from customs duty for three months, in a bid to boost availability.

The United States has faced criticism in India for its export controls on raw materials for vaccines put in place via the Defense Production Act and an associated export embargo in February.

When the news anchor asked Bankata what happens when a hospital issues an SOS call as his had done, Bankata replied: "Nothing".

At one such rally on April 17, Modi expressed his delight at the huge crowd, even as experts warned that a deadly surge was inevitable with India already counting 250,000 new daily cases.

Hours later, the hospital received supplies to run for few hours.

"We are running on backup, waiting for supplies since morning", Fortis said.

"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.

As the oxygen scarcity deepened, local officials in several states disrupted movement of tankers and diverted supplies to their areas.

"We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India's health care heroes".

For the second consecutive day, the country set a global record for daily infections with 332,730. It has opened up the immunization program to all adults but faces a shortage.

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