NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Delhi's number of coronavirus infections will climb to more than half a million by the end of July and it does not have the hospital capacity to handle such an outbreak, the city state's deputy chief minister said on Tuesday (June 9).
The warning came as harrowing accounts of people struggling to get a hospital bed in the Indian capital emerged, including some who said their loved ones died on the doorsteps of medical centres which refused to take them in.
Despite a vast lockdown of its 1.3 billion people imposed in March, the disease is spreading in India at one of the world's fastest rates as it reopens a battered economy.
The caseload stands at 266,598, the world's fifth-largest, and is set to overtake Britain in the next few days.
Delhi, one of the hot spots, has nearly 29,000 cases that will grow to 550,000 by the end of July, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia told reporters. By then, it will need 80,000 beds, compared with its current capacity of nearly 9,000.
"For Delhi, this is a big problem if cases continue to rise," he said. Mumbai is the other hot spot.
Already the crisis is putting pressure on the health system.
Mr Aniket Goyal, a Delhi university student, said his grandfather was refused admission to six government-run hospitals last week because they said they had no beds even though a government app showed that beds were available.
When he went to the city's private healthcare facilities, they found the daily cost of treatment so high that they withdrew.
The family filed a public interest petition in court seeking its intervention. The court set a hearing for the following week, by which time the 78-year-old man had died.
"He was dying in front of our family every minute, we could not do anything," Mr Goyal said.
Another resident tweeted that she was standing outside the government-run Lok Nayak Jayaprakash hospital with her ailing father but it was not accepting him.
"My dad is having high fever. We need to shift him to hospital. I am standing outside LNJP Delhi and they are not taking him in. He is having corona, high fever and breathing problem. He won't survive without help. Please help," said the resident, who tweeted under the Twitter handle Amarpreet.
An hour later, she wrote her father had died and that the government had failed them. The hospital said in a statement that the patient was dead on arrival and that its doctors had examined him.
"The hospital staff is working non-stop for the last several months and are making every effort possible to ensure not a single life is lost," it said, adding that these were extraordinary circumstances.
A Delhi government coronavirus mobile app showed the city of more than 20 million people had 8,814 Covid-19 beds, with more than half occupied. Of the 96 hospitals listed, 20 had no beds available, the app showed on Tuesday.
The app also tracks the availability of ventilators, and data showed that only 260 of the 519 ventilators were in use.
"Delhi's health system is broken," said Congress MP Manish Tewari.