NEW DELHI • Daily deaths from Covid-19 rose to a new record of 3,689 in India yesterday, even as the number of cases dropped slightly a day after the country became the first in the world to log more than 400,000 new infections in a 24-hour period.
The decline to 392,488 offered little respite for the nation's healthcare system, which is stretched to its limit and is struggling with shortages of oxygen and medical goods.
The latest figures came as medical equipment, including oxygen-generation devices, were flown into the capital, New Delhi, from France and Germany as part of a huge international effort.
"We are here because we are bringing help that... will save lives," Germany's Ambassador to India Walter J. Lindner said as 120 ventilators arrived late on Saturday.
"Out there, the hospitals are full. People are sometimes dying in front of the hospitals. They have no more oxygen. Sometimes, (they are dying) in their cars."
French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain said his country wanted to show solidarity with India. "The epidemic is still going on in one country. The world won't be safe until we are all safe. So it's a matter of urgency," he said early yesterday following the delivery of eight oxygen-generation machines and dozens of ventilators from France.
Britain said yesterday it was sending an extra 1,000 oxygen ventilators, as a group of doctors provided their own booster shot with offers of long-distance telemedicine support.
Britain has already sent 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators to India.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is set to meet India's External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar today on the margins of G-7 talks this week in London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also due to hold a virtual meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi after cancelling a trip to New Delhi in the light of the crisis.
Britain will do everything it can in India's "hour of need", Mr Raab told the BBC, although the government said it had no vaccines to spare at this time.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's first batch of aid to India - consisting of 150 oxygen concentrators and 500 oxygen cylinders - headed to New Delhi yesterday. "These oxygen concentrators and cylinders are love from Taiwan. More help for our friends in India is on the way. #IndiaStayStrong!" Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted.
Hospitals in the Indian capital continued to issue SOS calls for oxygen on social media, with the latest appeal posted by a children's hospital on Twitter yesterday.
The plea came a day after up to a dozen patients died in a New Delhi hospital amid an oxygen shortage, local media reported.
There are also growing fears about the surge of the virus in small cities, towns and rural regions where health infrastructure is already patchy and limited.
A seven-day lockdown has been imposed in the northern state of Haryana from today, while the eastern state of Odisha yesterday opted for a 14-day one.
The nation's worst-hit city, New Delhi, reported just over 25,000 cases on Saturday as it extended its own lockdown by another week.
India on Saturday opened up its inoculation drive to all adults, but supplies are running low and only online enrolments are allowed for those aged under 45.
Experts have called on the government to allow for more flexibility in the vaccine roll-out, particularly in poorer rural areas where there is lower Internet penetration.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA