India COVID patients ‘die due to oxygen shortage’

India reports more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths rise by 3,417.

A man suffering from COVID-19 is comforted by his daughter as he receives treatment inside the casualty ward at a hospital in New Delhi [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

With more than 300,000 daily cases reported for nearly two weeks now, India is battling a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus that has overwhelmed its fragile and underfunded healthcare system.

Hospitals are filled to capacity, medical oxygen supplies are running short and morgues and crematoriums are swamped.

The eastern state of Odisha and northern industrial state Haryana became the latest to announce new lockdowns, joining New Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal.

This live blog is now closed. These were Monday’s updates:

India’s biggest order of Serum Institute vaccine covered just 4 percent of people

The Narendra Modi-led federal government has not placed an order larger than 110 million doses from the biggest local maker since sales started in December, according to a person familiar with the matter – enough for just four percent of its population of 1.4 billion people.

Serum Institute of India Ltd, the world’s largest vaccine maker and the country’s main supplier of COVID-19 shots, is racing to keep up with states’ orders but its production facilities can produce only 60 to 70 million doses a month and can ramp up to 100 million by July, said the person who declined to be identified.

Read more here.

Massive surge ‘wasn’t anticipated’ – Delhi surgeon

A chief surgeon at an elite Delhi hospital says the scale of India’s massive wave “wasn’t anticipated”.

“We normally use about 3-3.5 metric tons of oxygen every day … we are now needing to use about 11 metric tons, and somehow we are managing to get in about six to seven metric tons every day,” Arvind Soin of the Medanta Liver Transplant Institute told Al Jazeera.

“So … we are still falling short by about four or five, and that means we have to cut down because of oxygen within the hospital, we have to reduce the number of oxygen beds that can be available for COVID patients.”

“It is a very difficult situation,” Soin added.


India’s vaccinations plummet as coronavirus infections soar

India’s daily COVID-19 shots have fallen sharply from an all-time high reached early last month as domestic companies struggle to boost supplies and imports are limited, even as the country fights the world’s worst surge in infections.

India has partially or fully immunised only 12 percent of its 1.35 billion people, according to data from the government’s Co-WIN portal.

Daily inoculations have averaged 2.5 million since hitting a peak of 4.5 million on April 5. A quadrupling of coronavirus cases during the period has collapsed the public health system in many regions of the country.

Pramila Shah, 82, receives the second dose of Covishield a coronavirus disease vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, as Hansa Pandhi, 76, waits for her turn at a vaccination centre in Mumbai, India, on April 28, 2021 [Niharika Kulkarnin/Reuters]

Effect of devastating Indian virus surge spreads to politics

The leaders of 13 opposition parties urged the government to launch a free vaccination drive and ensure an uninterrupted flow of oxygen to all hospitals.

Several hospital authorities sought court interventions over the weekend to provide oxygen supplies in New Delhi, where a lockdown has been extended by a week in an attempt to contain the wave of infections.

The New Delhi High Court said it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals are not delivered.

“Water has gone above the head. Enough is enough,” it said.

‘Our mother has two swords over her head’

For six days, 52-year-old Jai Ram Yadav has been struggling desperately to get his wife admitted to hospital. Lakshmi Yadav, 51, has tested positive for COVID but also needs twice-weekly dialysis for kidney failure resulting from severe diabetes.

For the past two weeks, she has been unable to receive dialysis – a treatment delivered by a machine that filters and purifies the blood when the kidneys are unable to do the job themselves – because the hospital cannot offer dialysis to people who have COVID.

Lakshmi Yadav, 51, tested positive for COVID and is left in a dire situation as she has missed dialysis appointments as hospitals are overrun [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

The couple, who are not well-off, were told by the hospital that they must pay 900 rupees ($12) for a COVID test before Lakshmi can receive any more dialysis as she was experiencing mild symptoms, including a cough.

Once she tested positive, she was refused care because of the fear that she might contaminate the dialysis machine.

Read more here.

Iraq evacuates citizens from India

Iraq on Monday began evacuating its nationals from India amid the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the South Asian country.

“Iraqi Airways launched first exceptional flights to India to evacuate Iraqi citizens stranded there due to the spread of coronavirus,” Kifah Hussein, airline chief, said in a statement.

He said all official approvals have been obtained from the Iraqi and Indian authorities for bringing the Iraqi nationals back home.

Australia defends flight ban from India

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt on Monday defended his country’s decision to temporarily pause flights from India due to the growing risk of virus infections.

“Across the country, we saw a 1,500 percent increase in cases, a 1,500 percent increase in cases from India in two months, and that led to an agonising decision,” Hunt said.

The ban will be reviewed before May 15, Hunt added.

India PM’s party defeated in West Bengal regional elections

The party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been handed a defeat in regional elections in the state of West Bengal.

Modi has been criticised for allowing large gatherings to take place as hospitals struggle to deal with the world’s biggest COVID surge.

Oil down as demand falls in major importer India

Oil prices fell on Monday over fears that the record COVID surge in the world’s third largest oil importer, India, will further curtail fuel demand in the country.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $66.56 per barrel at 06:54 GMT, a 0.29 percent decrease after closing Friday at $66.76 and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $63.41 per barrel at the same time, a 0.26 percent drop after ending the previous session at $63.58.

Last week’s euphoria over an oil demand recovery in the second half of the year has been overshadowed by demand fears as India’s caseload reached 19.9 million.

‘Lack of oxygen killed him, not the virus’

On Saturday afternoon, 12 coronavirus patients died at New Delhi’s Batra Hospital after it ran out of medical oxygen. Among the dead was Dr RK Himthani, head of gastroenterology at the same hospital.

The private hospital was among several across India to sound an alarm over a crippling oxygen shortage as they struggle to cope with patients pouring in, needing ventilators and ICU beds.

Read more here.

Karnataka patients ‘die due to oxygen shortages’: Report

ANI news agency reported that several coronavirus patients in a government hospital in Karnataka state have died. At least 24 patients undergoing treatment at the Chamarajanagar district hospital died either after oxygen ran out or for other reasons in the past 24 hours, ANI said.

Karnataka Congress President DK Shivkumar slammed Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa over the deaths, also hitting out at Health Minister K Sudhakar for claiming that the state has enough oxygen to cope with the crisis, ANI reported.

“Criminal negligence has led to these 24 deaths in Karnataka. Why do Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and Health Minister K Sudhakar keep lying everyday saying there is enough oxygen? Is there no accountability? How many more will be ‘killed’ because the government cannot supply Oxygen?” Shivkumar posted on Twitter.

LNG tankers diverted as COVID crisis dampens demand

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes are being diverted away from ports in India as surging coronavirus cases hamper domestic gas demand, trade and shipping sources said.

Six LNG tankers diverted away from India since April 20, changing the destination to northeast Asia, Europe and Kuwait instead, Rebecca Chia, an analyst with data intelligence firm Kpler, told Reuters.

Further diversions and reduction in shipments to India are expected this week, trade sources told Reuters, although one source said that companies are adopting a wait and see approach to see how extensive the lockdowns will be.

IPL game to be rescheduled after two COVID positive cases

Monday’s Indian Premier League (IPL) match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders in Ahmedabad is set to be postponed after two KKR players tested positive for COVID-19, ESPNcricinfo reported.

The cricket website said the players tested positive after one of them had left the tournament’s bio-secure bubble for a shoulder scan.

A senior BCCI official told Reuters last week that the league would continue as planned, saying the Twenty20 tournament helped lift the COVID-19 gloom in the country.

Devastating virus surge spreads impact into India’s politics

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been severely criticised over the handling of the COVID surge, which has pushed India’s already fragile and underfunded health system to the brink.

Massive election rallies organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties as well as a giant Hindu festival on the banks of the Ganges may have exacerbated the spread, experts said, adding that new variants could also be increasing cases.

Modi’s party on Sunday suffered a resounding election defeat in a key state, West Bengal, failing to dislodge its firebrand chief minister, Mamata Banerjee. The BJP retained power in northeastern Assam state but lost in two southern states.

While the four states were already stiff election challenges for the BJP apart from the pandemic, analysts say the results weaken Modi’s position as surging infections cripple the health system.

Here’s more from the political front.

Taiwan bars arrivals from India

Taiwan will suspend from Tuesday the entry of people who have been to India over the previous 14 days, Reuters reported Health Minister Chen Shih-chung as saying.

The virus variant first found in India has reached at least 17 countries, including Britain, Iran and Switzerland, spurring several to close their borders to those travelling from India.

Except for Taiwan citizens, all those who had been in India in the prior 14 days would be kept out, Chen said, with the restriction taking effect at midnight. Returning Taiwanese will have to spend 14 days in centralised quarantine facilities, however.

Earlier, Deputy Economy Minister Chen Chern-Chyi said the government was considering whether to send an aircraft to evacuate the 150 Taiwanese businesspeople now in India.

Pfizer in talks with India over expedited approval for COVID vaccine

Pfizer is in discussions with the Indian government seeking an “expedited approval pathway” for its COVID-19 vaccine, its CEO Albert Bourla said on LinkedIn, announcing a donation of medicines worth more than $70m, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our vaccine is not registered in India although our application was submitted months ago,” he said.

“We are currently discussing with the Indian government an expedited approval pathway to make our Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available for use in the country.”

Indonesia finds two cases of Indian COVID variant in Jakarta

Indonesia has recorded two cases of a highly infectious COVID-19 variant first identified in India in the capital, Jakarta, the country’s health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

“There were two new mutations that entered. One from India, with two incidents in Jakarta and one from South Africa in Bali,” Budi told a virtual conference. Another official confirmed the two cases were the B.1.617 variant, first detected in India.

Indonesia last week stopped issuing visas for foreigners who had been in India in the previous 14 days.

Expert calls for ‘national stay at home order’

“In my opinion, only a national stay at home order and declaring medical emergency will help to address the current healthcare needs,” Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist with the University of Michigan, said on Twitter.

“The # of active cases is accumulating, not just the daily new cases. Even the reported numbers state there are around 3.5M active cases.”

At least 11 states and union territories have imposed some form of restrictions to try and stem infections, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown, concerned about the economic effects.

Why India’s COVID-19 data is vastly undercounted

As daily case counts soar far beyond what other countries have reported, experts caution the official COVID-19 numbers from the world’s second most populous country are likely a huge undercount.

But why is India’s data considered inaccurate? Is the data any less accurate than what other nations report? And which numbers give a good indication of the crisis?

Find out here.

Cricket Australia backs UNICEF fundraising drive

Cricket Australia (CA) is making an initial donation of 50,000 Australian dollars ($38,600), matching a donation made by Vice-Captain Pat Cummins last week, as the country’s players union threw its weight behind a UNICEF Australia fundraising drive to respond to India’s COVID-19 crisis.

“Australians and Indians share a special bond and, for many, our mutual love of cricket is central to that friendship,” CA interim CEO Nick Hockley said in a statement.

“It has been distressing and saddening to learn of the suffering of so many of our Indian sisters and brothers during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and our hearts go out to everyone impacted.”

UNICEF Australia’s India COVID-19 Crisis Appeal is procuring and installing oxygen equipment in hospitals to treat seriously ill patients, providing testing equipment and “supporting acceleration of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out”, the charity said.

India reports 368,147 new COVID-19 infections

India has reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases for a 12th straight day, taking its overall caseload to just shy of 20 million, while deaths from COVID-19 rose by 3,417.

With 368,147 new cases over the past 24 hours, India’s total coronavirus infections now stand at 19.93 million, while its total fatalities are now at 218,959, according to health ministry data.

UK to send 1,000 more ventilators to India

Britain is rushing to dispatch a further 1,000 ventilators to India to help its struggling healthcare system deal with a surge in coronavirus infections which is killing thousands every day.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised “the UK will always be there for India” as he committed fresh assistance, including advice from NHS staff and health experts Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance.

Johnson made the pledge ahead of a call with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday, arranged to replace a visit to New Delhi which was cancelled as cases spiralled.

The 1,000 ventilators from the UK’s surplus supply are in addition to 200 sent last week, in shipments that also included nearly 500 oxygen concentrators.

India industry body urges curbs to economic activity

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), a leading Indian industry body, has urged authorities to take the “strongest national steps” and to curtail economic activity to save lives as the country battles surging coronavirus cases.

Billionaire Uday Kotak, managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank and CII president, said a “maximal response measure at the highest level is called for to cut the transmission links”, as building healthcare infrastructure will take time.

“At this critical juncture when toll of lives is rising, CII urges the strongest national steps including curtailing economic activity to reduce suffering,” Kotak said in a statement.

Concerned about the economic effects of shutting down the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown. At least 11 states and federal territories have imposed some form of restrictions.

The Indian Express newspaper reported on Sunday that the country’s COVID-19 task force has advised the federal government to impose a national lockdown.

Read more here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies