India breaches 200,000 daily Covid-19 cases as hospital beds, oxygen fall short

India reported 200,739 Covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours.
India reported 200,739 Covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU (REUTERS) - India’s capital New Delhi will go into weekend lockdowns to contain a steep increase in Covid-19 infections, the city’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday (April 15).

Shopping malls, gyms, dine-out service at restaurants and some weekly markets will be shut during the weekend and only essential services would remain operational, Mr Kejriwal said.

India reported a record 200,000 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday and the financial hub of Mumbai entered a lockdown, as many hospitals treating coronavirus patients reported severe shortages of beds and oxygen supplies.

The surge was the seventh record daily increase in the last eight days and comes as India battles a massive second wave of infections that has its epicentre in the economically significant state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai. The western state accounts for about a quarter of the country's total cases.

India reported 200,739 Covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data released on Thursday.

Deaths stood at 1,038, taking the total to 173,123.

The total caseload reached 14.1 million, second only to the United States, which leads the global tally with 31.4 million cases.

Hospitals and doctors in Maharashtra as well as other regions, including Gujarat and Delhi in the north, reported chaotic scenes as healthcare facilities were overwhelmed with a surge in admissions of Covid-19 patients.

"The situation is horrible. We are a 900-bed hospital, but there are about 60 patients waiting and we don't have space for them," said Dr Avinash Gawande, an official at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Nagpur, a commercial hub in Maharashtra.

Hospitals in other places including Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, reported oxygen shortages.

"If such conditions persist, the death toll will rise," the head of a medical body in Ahmedabad wrote in a letter to the Gujarat state chief minister.

India's government said the country was producing oxygen at its full capacity everyday for the last two days and it had boosted output.

"Along with the ramped up production of the oxygen manufacturing units and the surplus stocks available, the present availability of oxygen is sufficient," the Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims still thronged to a religious festival in the north of the country on Wednesday, stoking fears of a new surge in Covid-19 cases in the region.

In capital Delhi, too, daily Covid-19 cases are hitting new records, with doctors warning the surge could be deadlier than in 2020.

"This virus is more infectious and virulent... We have 35-year olds with pneumonia in intensive care, which was not happening last year," said Dr Dhiren Gupta, a paediatrician at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi. "The situation is chaotic."