0322 GMT July 24, 2021
India’s infection and death rates are growing exponentially, overwhelming hospitals, in contrast with some Western nations that are starting to ease restrictions.
The virus has now killed over 3.1 million people worldwide, with India driving the latest surge in global case numbers, recording some new 2,800 deaths, and more than 320,000 additional cases of coronavirus infection on Tuesday.
The latest fatalities pushed India’s fatalities to 197,894, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico. Experts say even these figures are probably an undercount, AP reported.
The surge, spurred by insidious variants of coronavirus, has undermined the Indian government’s premature claims of victory over the pandemic. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is facing a chronic shortage of space on its intensive care wards. Hospitals are experiencing oxygen shortages and many people are being forced to turn to makeshift facilities for mass burials and cremations.
The new infections raised India’s total past 17.6 million, behind only the United States. It ended a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic, but the decline likely reflects lower weekend testing rather than reduced spread of the virus.
Crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from the UK were unloaded at a Delhi airport early Tuesday, the first shipment to arrive in the country to deal with the crisis.
“International cooperation at work,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi tweeted alongside photos of the crates.
Elsewhere in the capital, COVID-19 victims were burnt on funeral pyres set up in rows, the earth between them scorched by embers and littered with ash, AFP wrote.
US President Joe Biden promised Monday the United States would send up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine abroad.
The offer came with Washington under pressure to lift restrictions on exporting vaccine and vaccine supplies.
India appeared to be a leading contender after Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – whose Hindu-nationalist government is under fire for allowing mass gatherings such as religious festivals and political rallies in recent weeks.
“India was there for us, and we will be there for them,” Biden tweeted after the call with Modi.
Others have also rushed to pledge help.
Germany and Canada have promised support, while France said on Monday it will send eight oxygen production units as well as oxygen containers and respirators to India.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki, in a letter to his Indian counterpart Harsh Vardhan on Sunday, said Tehran is ready to offer “technical assistance, expertise and equipment in these difficult days and at the height of the plight of the dear citizens of India”.
The World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Monday described the situation in India as “beyond heartbreaking”.
“WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies,” Tedros said.