Country’s total infection count since start of pandemic nears 17 million
(Source: CBC.CA) – With life-saving oxygen in short supply, family members in India are left on their own to ferry COVID-19 patients from hospital to hospital in search of treatment as the country is engulfed in a devastating new surge of infections. Too often, their efforts end in mourning.
The stories are told in social media posts and television footage, showing desperate relatives pleading for oxygen outside hospitals or weeping in the street for loved ones who died waiting for treatment.
One woman mourned the death of her younger brother, aged 50. He was turned away by two hospitals and died waiting to be seen at a third, gasping after his oxygen tank ran out and no replacements were to be had.
She blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for the crisis.
“He has lit funeral pyres in every house,” she cried in a video shot by India’s weekly magazine The Caravan.
For the fourth straight day, India on Sunday set a global daily record of new COVID-19 infections, spurred by an insidious new variant that emerged here. The surge has undermined the government’s premature claims of victory over the pandemic.
The 349,691 confirmed infections over the past day brought India’s total to more than 16.9 million cases, behind only the United States. The Health Ministry reported another 2,767 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing fatalities in the country to 192,311.
Experts say this toll could be a huge undercount, as suspected cases are not included, and many COVID-19 deaths are being attributed to underlying conditions.
The unfolding crisis is most visceral in India’s overwhelmed graveyards and crematoriums, as well as in heartbreaking images of gasping patients dying on their way to hospitals due to lack of oxygen.
Burial grounds in the capital New Delhi are running out of space. Bright, glowing funeral pyres light up the night sky in other badly hit cities.
Crematoriums increase capacity
In the central city of Bhopal, some crematoriums have increased their capacity from dozens of pyres to more than 50. Yet officials say there are still hours-long waits.
At the city’s Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 people on Saturday, even as government figures in the entire city of 1.8 million put the total number of virus deaths at just 10.
“The virus is swallowing our city’s people like a monster,” said Mamtesh Sharma, an official at the site.
The unprecedented rush of bodies has forced the crematorium to skip individual ceremonies and exhaustive rituals that Hindus believe release the soul from the cycle of rebirth.
“We are just burning bodies as they arrive,” Sharma said. “It is as if we are in the middle of a war.”