Delhi’s oxygen-starved hospitals were launching SOS on Friday when thirteen Covid-19 patients died in a hospital fire in the suburbs of Mumbai, a tragedy adding to the health disaster overwhelming India.
In the last 24 hours, 330,000 new Covid cases were reported and 2,200 deaths have been recorded.
The dilapidated health system has long suffered from underfunding and, faced with this second acute epidemic wave, is sorely lacking in the drugs and oxygen needed by the patients most seriously affected by Covid-19.
An investigation has been opened into the causes of a fire, now extinct, which broke out at around 3 a.m. (9:30 p.m. GMT Thursday) in a hospital in the suburbs of Bombay, Morrison Khavari, a fire official told AFP.
“Seventeen patients were in the intensive care unit of the Vijay Vallabh hospital” according to the official, “13 died and four others were transferred to other establishments”.
Two days earlier, 22 Covid-19 patients died in another hospital in the same state of Maharashtra due to an oxygen supply cut to their respirators for half an hour.
Four patients were also killed in early April in a fire at a private clinic in Maharashtra, while in March a fire in a hospital killed eleven people in Bombay.
Shravan Rathod, Bollywood star composer of the 90s, was dead Thursday evening by Covid. 66-year-old died in a Bombay hospital, his son told Indian news agency PTI.
India recorded nearly four million new infections in April alone, dashing hopes earlier this year of perhaps having weathered the worst of the pandemic.
This exponential upsurge was in part blamed on the virus’ “double mutation” and crowd gatherings, such as the long Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar, northern Uttarakhand state, where around 25 million Hindu pilgrims, most without masks or physical distancing, flock from January until the end of this month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to participate in at least three crisis meetings on Friday dedicated in particular to the supply of oxygen and the availability of essential drugs.
The capital New Delhi continues to be among the areas most severely affected by the pandemic.
– “SOS” –
Hospitals in the city are making daily appeals for help to the state government and the national government due to the depletion of oxygen supplies.
“SOS – Less than an hour of oxygen supply at Max Smart Hospital and Max Hospital Saket. We have been waiting for the new supplies promised by Inox since 1 am (…) More than 700 admitted patients need immediate assistance, ”tweeted Max Healthcare, one of the largest private hospital chains, early Friday morning.
“We are suspending any further admission of patients to all of our Delhi area hospitals until the oxygen supply stabilizes,” he added shortly after.
Other private hospitals in the area have been posting video messages and making similar calls on social media for days.
At least six hospitals ran out of oxygen in the Indian capital overnight from Thursday to Friday, when others had only a few hours of stock left.
“Oxygen Express” train, military planes
“Twenty-five of the sickest patients have died in the last 24 hours. Only two hours of oxygen left (…) A major crisis is likely. The lives of 60 other most affected patients are in danger, an intervention urgently needed, “the medical director of Sir Gangaram Hospital in New Delhi warned in a statement.
24/7 medical oxygen tankers are supplying different states across the country and Air Force cargo planes have started delivering large oxygen tankers to where they were needed .
The first “Oxygen Express” train left the industrial center of Vizag, in the south of the country, on Thursday for Maharashtra, loaded with oxygen trucks.
In total, India has recorded more than 16 million infections and 187,000 deaths, a toll which, per capita, remains significantly lower in India than in many other countries.