Home » Covid-19: India in crisis as it faces its second wave

Covid-19: India in crisis as it faces its second wave

Mass Funeral Pyres

India’s second wave of the coronavirus has left hospitals working over capacity, having to turn people away as they face shortage in the number of beds, oxygen and medicines. With the spike in the number of deaths, crematoriums were also overwhelmed forcing them to build mass funeral pyres for mass cremation. Many countries such as the US, UK, Pakistan and the European Commission are sending out aid to India.

India’s second wave of coronavirus is devastating as hospitals and crematoriums are overwhelmed along with a widespread shortage of oxygen and medicines. The new mutated variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster, increasing the number of cases and causing more deaths. The country has hit a record number of cases on Monday 26th April as well as its highest daily number of deaths.

However the number of cases and deaths are more likely to be higher than the numbers provided by the Indian authority with many people avoiding testing or struggling to get access to medical care. Deaths in smaller villages of India also go unregistered. 

The latest figures show a total of 17 million (17,736,307) confirmed cases and 197,894 deaths.

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India’s hospital running low on beds and oxygen

With the new variant spreading like fire, there is a shortage of space on its intensive care wards, forcing many patients and their families to drive for miles to try to find a bed. Delhi’s hospitals are full and are turning away new patients. 

According to local news, the streets outside medical facilities have become crowded with patients in need of medical care, as their families try to arrange for stretchers and oxygen supplies for them as they plead with hospital authorities for a place inside. 

Medical facilities India
Medical facilities have become crowded with patients in need of medical care | Reuters

In an interview with Reuters, Dr K.Preetham, chief of medical administration at the city’s Indian Spinal Injuries Centre said: “For seven days, most of us haven’t slept. Because of the scarcity, we are forced to put two patients on one cylinder and this is a time consuming process because we don’t have long tubes.”

The government on Monday 26th April announced that military medical infrastructure would be made available to civilians and retired medical military personnel would be helping out in Covid health facilities. 

Mass Funeral Pyres 

As the crematoriums are overwhelmed, many people are forced to turn to makeshift facilities for mass cremations and burials. One facility in Delhi has turned to building pyre in its car park to cope with the increasing number of bodies. 

Other sites are reportedly hosting mass cremations, with workers working day and night in many cities.

In an interview with BBC News, Jitender Singh Shunty, the head of a non-profit medical service that operates a crematorium in north-east Delhi, is dealing with the extraordinary number of bodies by using a car park next door: “It’s difficult to watch.” he admitted.

Mass Funeral Pyres
Makeshift facilities for mass cremations and burials | Reuters

A variety of locations have also confirmed a shortage of wood for pyres.

“I can’t believe we’re in the capital of India. People aren’t getting oxygen and they’re dying like animals.” said Jayant Malhotra, who has been helping out at a crematorium in Delhi, to BBC News.

Countries helping out India

The UK has started sending out ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices and the EU members are also due to sending aid. The first consignment arrived in India on Tuesday 27th of April and further shipments will be sent later in the week. 

The consignment includes 495 oxygen concentrators, which can extract oxygen from the air when hospital oxygen systems have depleted. It also includes 120 non invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators. 

In a statement the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner during what is a deeply concerning time in the fight against Covid-19.”

On the other hand the US is lifting a ban on sending raw materials abroad, which would enable India to manufacture more of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The White House announced that it will immediately send out raw materials for vaccines to the Indian vaccine manufacturers.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” said President Joe Biden.

In Brussels, the European Commission said that it planned to send oxygen and medication as well. Ursula von der Leyen, the organization’s head, said that the organization was “pooling resources to respond rapidly to India’s call for assistance.”

Pakistan has also responded and offered medical equipment and supplies. The country’s Edhi foundation has also offered to send a fleet of 50 ambulances to India. 

Lastly, France is sending out oxygen production units, as well as oxygen containers and respirators.