India is now the centre of a viral storm that is the worst in the world, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports
India has reported a global record of more than 314,000 new Covid-19 infections in a day, as the country struggles with a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen.
The country recorded 314,835 more infections on Thursday, bringing its total past 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began. This is the second highest total in the world next to the United States.
Meanwhile, Covid deaths rose by 2,104, bringing its death toll to 184,657, according to the country’s Health Ministry. But experts believe the actual number of deaths is higher than the official figure.
Hospitals are running on dangerously low levels of oxygen, on top of shortages of beds and medicine.
Parmanand Singh, 59, one of hundreds of thousands of Covid patients, is in a critical condition. He is alive thanks to a dwindling supply of oxygen, which will not last much longer.
His daughter Ambika has brought him to a government hospital begging for him to be admitted after being discharged from an overwhelmed private clinic.
She told ITV News: «When he tested positive, the private hospital said they couldn’t treat him and kicked him out. I’ve been calling the chief minister’s office but no one will help. They’ve said he needs treatment but no one will take him.»
Asma Khan’s 60-year-old husband Sarul needs urgent care but there’s no room in hospitals.
Asma said: «Nobody is safe anywhere whether you are rich or poor or whatever caste. Everyone is worried. I pray to god that everyone is well and whoever has Covid gets better and goes back home.
«Even if they tell us they have beds, they’re telling us they don’t have oxygen. This is why the government needs to make sure wherever there are Covid patients that oxygen arrives there. Please don’t play with people’s lives.»
Suraj Prasad’s wife Umrawati Devi, 55, from Hajipur, Bihar, is also in a critical condition. He said his wife’s condition is deteriorating day by day but no one is giving her a bed.
He said: «We have come from so far but no one at all is willing to give her a bed. They’re saying go to a private hospital but no one is willing to take her, they’re all saying no beds, especially when I say she’s (Covid) positive.»
Another woman told ITV News her mother died «in agony» as there was no oxygen. She said everyone in her mother’s ward also died.
There are reports of tanks being stolen, as they become the new currency of survival in the crisis.
But incredibly, massive election rallies have still been allowed to take place as anger mounts that President Ram Nath Kovind has failed to grasp the scale of the outbreak.
A hospital in the city of Lucknow had been reporting zero available beds in the last three days.
Ambulances have been seen rushing from one hospital to another, trying to find an empty bed.
According to the Health Ministry, 75 train coaches in New Delhi have been turned into hospitals providing an additional 1,200 beds.
Meanwhile, the government is rushing oxygen tankers to replenish supplies to hospitals.
The New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals to save lives.
«You can’t have people die because there is no oxygen. Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency,” the judges said, responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital.
The Health Ministry said of the country’s total production of 7,500 metric tons of oxygen per day, 6,600 metric tons was being allocated for medical use.
Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday that «demand and supply is being monitored round the clock.” He said in a tweet that the government has increased the quota of oxygen for the seven worst-hit states.
Coronavirus: What you need to know – listen in for all your questions answered on Covid passports:
Dr Sanjay Gururaj, a doctor at Bengaluru-based Shanti Hospital and Research Center said three of his patients have died at home because they were unable to get hospital beds.
He said: “I try to find beds for patients every day, and it’s been incredibly frustrating to not be able to help them. In the last week, three patients of mine have died at home because they were unable to get beds. As a doctor, it’s an awful feeling.»
Yogesh Dixit, a resident in Uttar Pradesh, said he had to sell his wife’s jewelry to buy two oxygen cylinders at 12,000 rupees each (£115) for his father. He bought them at twice the normal cost as the state-run hospital in Lucknow had run out of supplies.
In Utter Pradesh, a crematorium is burning bodies in the pavements as it has run out of space.
The main cremation ground in Lucknow, the capital of Utter Pradesh, received nearly 200 bodies on Sunday.
«The bodies were everywhere, they were being cremated on sidewalks meant for walking. I have never such a flow of dead bodies in my life,” said Shekhar Chakraborty, 68.
In Kanpur, also in Uttar Pradesh, 35 temporary platforms have been set up on Bithoor-Sidhnath Ghat along the Ganges River to cremate bodies.