India reports over 412,000 new Covid cases as court demands plan to tackle oxygen shortage in Delhi

A Covid-19 coronavirus patient breathes with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, under a tent installed along the roadside in Ghaziabad on May 6, 2021.

Prakash Singh | AFP | Getty Images

India once again reported a record number of cases and fatalities on Thursday as it faces a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections that has pushed its health-care system to the brink of collapse.

Health ministry data showed there were 412,262 new reported cases of infections over a 24-hour period, pushing the total tally to over 21 million — days after crossing the 20 million mark on Tuesday.

India also reported its highest daily death toll, with 3,980 fatalities. But media reports suggest that the death rate is being underreported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is facing criticism for allowing large crowds to gather for election rallies and religious festivals earlier this year as well as for failing to anticipate or prepare for a second wave.

India’s oxygen crisis

“That means essentially the requirement for oxygen (is) also moving up,” he said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.

“Typically an ICU requires two-and-a-half to three times the amount of oxygen a ward or a patient in a bed requires. So, as criticality moves up, as mortality moves up, you are going to see the requirement of oxygen also move up,” he said.

Soi explained that Max Healthcare conducts about 4,000 RT-PCR tests in the Delhi area per day and about a week ago, those Covid-19 tests had a positivity rate of over 50%, which has since come down to about 31%.

“So what you are going to see right now is people who were infected about seven, eight days ago, coming into hospitals,” he said, adding these patients need a host of medicines and support, including oxygen.

Courts step in

On Wednesday, India’s Supreme Court ordered the central government to present a comprehensive plan by Thursday outlining steps it will take to meet medical oxygen requirements for hospitals in Delhi, including sources of supply and transport provisions. The country’s top court also stayed a contempt notice issued by the High Court of Delhi on May 4 to the central government for not complying with its orders to supply sufficient oxygen to hospitals in Delhi.

Delhi high court justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli noted on Tuesday that hospitals and nursing homes have had to reduce the number of beds offered because they are unable to service their existing capacities due to a shortage of medical oxygen.

The National Capital Territory of Delhi, which includes India’s capital New Delhi, is one of several areas that saw a rapid surge in cases, forcing the local government to step up restrictions to try and break the chain of transmission.

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