Army pledges to provide medical aid as India approaches 200,000 COVID deaths

A man sits next to the bodies of those who died from COVID-19 ahead of the mass cremation at a crematorium in New Delhi [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

With another 2,771 deaths confirmed, India's coronavirus death toll is approaching 200,000, and the country's armed forces have promised immediate medical assistance to combat the epidemic.

India reported 323,144 new cases in the last 24 hours, slightly less than the global high of 352,991 reached on Monday, with overcrowded hospitals turning away patients due to a lack of beds and oxygen supplies.

India, which has a population of about 1.3 billion people, has recorded 17.64 million COVID-19 infections and 197,894 deaths so far, but experts believe the number is much higher.

On Twitter, Rijo M John, a professor and health economist at the Indian Institute of Management in Kerala, said, "Please notice that a huge fall in daily cases... is largely due to a heavy fall in testing."

“This should not be interpreted as a drop in cases, but rather as a result of losing out on too many good ones!”

The Indian government has asked its armed forces to assist in resolving the crisis.

General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Defence Staff, announced late Monday that oxygen would be released from the armed forces reserves, and retired medical personnel would enter health facilities that are overwhelmed by the number of cases.

Rawat said any oxygen cylinders the army had would be transferred to hospitals in need of the life-saving gas while briefing Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the army's plans to deal with the crisis.

According to a government announcement, other former medical officers have been encouraged to provide consultations via emergency helplines.

Nursing nurses and medical officers assigned to military headquarters would be sent to assist overworked medical personnel.

There is an oxygen shortage across the country.

The first "Oxygen Express" train for Delhi arrived in the national capital early Tuesday, carrying about 70 tonnes of the life-saving gas.

However, the turmoil in the 20-million-strong metropolis continues unabated.

The hospital was dividing oxygen cylinders between patients, according to Dr. K Preetham, the chief of medical administration at the city's Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, which is treating hundreds of COVID-19 patients.

“Most of us haven't slept in seven days. We are forced to place two patients on one cylinder due to shortage, which is a time-consuming operation because we don't have long tubes,” he said.

In other major cities, hospitals, patients, and their families and friends have made urgent pleas for medical oxygen, hospital beds, and medicines.

Many patients have been forced to turn to the black market, where the cost of life-saving drugs and oxygen cylinders has risen dramatically.

Bodies were being cremated in temporary facilities in parks and parking lots in some of India's worst-affected cities.

Every day, about 60-70 bodies are treated at the Sarai Kale Khan cremation site in Delhi, beyond its normal capacity of 22.

According to media reports, at least 100 new platforms for funeral pyres are being built in a nearby region in anticipation of increasing death rates.

Owing to a large number of virus-related deaths, other cities, and administrative bodies are running out of land for burials and cremations.

R Ashoka, a minister in India's southern state of Karnataka, told the NDTV network that the regional government is looking for land to construct temporary crematoriums on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

Medical assistance from the United Kingdom has arrived.

The US Chamber of Commerce has cautioned that the Indian economy, which is the world's sixth-largest, could suffer as a result of the increase in cases, putting the global economy at risk.

“We expect things to get worse before they get better,” Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, the country's largest business lobby, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, numerous countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States, have promised assistance, and Indian Americans in the US Congress and the technology sector have banded together to assist.

A shipment of critical medical supplies from the United Kingdom arrived in New Delhi early Tuesday, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators.

According to the embassy, France is also sending oxygen generators that can supply year-round oxygen for 250 beds.

Australia has put a halt to direct passenger flights from India until May 15, becoming the latest country to do so to avoid more virulent virus variants from entering their borders.

In the midst of the chaos, three Australian cricketers cut short their IPL season to return home.

The country is in talks with the United States, which has announced that it will share 60 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine with other nations.

“At this point, major lobbying is taking place to achieve as much as possible for India,” a senior Indian official involved in the ongoing talks told Reuters, adding that Modi had been assured that India would be given priority.

“At this point, even India's harshest critics are pressuring the US regime to help India,” the official added.

Publish : 2021-04-27 15:13:00

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