India is battling a second wave of the virulent Covid-19 pandemic, with hospital corridors across the country filled with patients, as ambulances carrying more sick people wait in long lines outside.
Angry families have been seen fighting over the few remaining hospital beds, while in some areas, oxygen has to be given to coronavirus patients on the road.
Extra beds and whatever facilities were added last year to tackle the first wave of transmission have been overwhelmed by a more than tenfold surge in the number of cases India has experienced over the past month.
The country reported a record 200,732 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to health ministry data, bringing the national number of infections to 13.9 million.
Deaths also rose to 1,027, the highest daily figure since October, raising the country’s toll since the start of the pandemic to more than 172,000.
In Gujarat, some families have had to wait eight hours or more to perform the final rites for their loved ones, while in Mumbai, the hospital area was flooded with angry relatives on Tuesday after 10 Covid-19 patients. died – presumably from lack of oxygen.
The state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, is the epicenter of India’s second wave – accounting for about a quarter of all cases in the country. In one district, a woman was photographed connected to an oxygen cylinder on an autorickshaw on the street as she awaits treatment.
The full state lockdown that lasts until the end of April is set to apply at midnight on Wednesday to control the spread.
Both private hospitals and government-run facilities are rapidly being flooded. “They just keep coming in,” said a junior doctor at the Holy Family Hospital in New Delhi. “The next few months, until this wave reaches its peak, it will be hell.”
The Indian capital alone recorded 13,500 new infections on Wednesday, the highest tally in six months. By lunch time, 93 percent of the city’s intensive care beds with ventilators were filled, with patients and their relatives seen queuing outside some hospitals.
One woman told a local television news channel that she had not heard anything about her mother since she was hospitalized four days ago. “I have absolutely no news,” he said. “Nobody inside answered the phone. No doctor will answer, so I really don’t know anything. “
Amid a surge in infections, the Delhi government ordered 14 private hospitals for the first time to only treat Covid-19 patients until further notice – a decision that has angered those whose relatives need treatment for other conditions.
“My husband is scheduled to have hip replacement surgery next week,” said Neelam Buddhiraj, a retired accountant.
“I don’t know what to say to him. What if I fall and break a bone tomorrow? Does the government mean no one else is important?”
Dr Girdhar Gyani, director general of the Association of Health Service Providers (India), said he plans to challenge Delhi’s “absurd” hospital ruling in court. “What about accident or trauma victims? Stroke victim? Heart attack patient?
Treating Covid patients does not require the top level medical expertise of this particular hospital where complex and very sophisticated operations are performed, yet you go and block all their beds? I think it’s okay if a stroke or accident victim dies to save Covid patients, “he said.
Meanwhile, health workers have once again succumbed to the virus, with so many medical staff testing positive for the coronavirus at one hospital in the state of Madhya Pradesh that a gardener has had to be retrained to collect a patient’s nose and throat samples for testing.
Migrant workers have also reportedly fled the major cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, fearing lockdowns that could leave them unemployed, homeless and away from their families.
“I have eight painters working for me who just left suddenly last night, ”said Sambhu Sharma, a building contractor in Delhi.
“My clients are desperately trying to persuade them to stay – the painting is half finished and their house is a complete mess – but they fear they might lock up and not be able to feed themselves.”
In Chhattisgarh state, images broadcast by NDTV showed hospital corridors filled with Covid-19 victims, some lying on the floor, awaiting their final ceremonies.
At a cemetery in Delhi, earth movers have been called in to handle the dozens of bodies that are brought in for burial each day.
Meanwhile in Surat, the incursion of bodies was so intense at one of the crematoriums that the metal structures inside the furnace began to melt from the cremation over time.