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India records 320k cases as foreign help arrives

2021 Apr 27, 18:30, NEW DELHI
Exhausted workers, who bring dead bodies for cremation, sit on the rear step of an ambulance inside a crematorium, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, April 24, 2021. As India suffers a bigger, more infectious second wave with a caseload of more than 300,000 new cases a day, the country’s healthcare workers are bearing the brunt of the disaster. (Photo via AP)

India recorded more than 320,000 new cases of coronavirus infection on Tuesday as a grim surge of illness and death weighed on the country and its sinking health system started getting much-needed support from foreign nations.

Tuesday’s 323,144 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.

The health ministry also reported another 2,771 deaths in the past 24 hours, with roughly 115 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour. The latest fatalities pushed India’s deaths to 197,894, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico. Experts say even these figures are probably an undercount.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi tweeted photos Tuesday of the first shipment of medical aid India received from Britain. It included 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators.

Other nations including the US, Germany, Israel and Pakistan have also promised medical aid. The countries have said they will supply oxygen, diagnostic tests, treatments, ventilators and protective gear to help India’s crisis, which World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called 'beyond heartbreaking'.

The surge, spurred by new variants of the coronavirus, has undermined the government’s claims of victory over the pandemic. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is facing shortages of space in intensive care wards. Hospitals are experiencing oxygen shortages and many people are being forced to turn to makeshift facilities for mass burials and cremations.

India’s top health official on Monday urged Indians to wear masks at home to prevent the spread of the virus. “It’s time people start wearing masks inside their homes as well,” said Dr VK Paul, the head of a government committee on medical emergency preparedness.

India has also called on its armed forces to help. India’s chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, said oxygen supplies will be released from armed forces reserves and its retired medical personnel will join health facilities to ease the pressure on doctors.

Meanwhile, in a bid to tackle the shortage of beds, authorities are turning to train carriages that have been converted into isolation wards. India has also started airlifting oxygen tanks to states in need. Special trains with oxygen supplies are also running in the country.

France is sending breathing machines, ICU gear and eight oxygen generators in a shipment expected to be sent later this week. Each generator can equip a hospital of 250 beds for several years, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said.

France will also send breathing machines, pumps and containers of liquid medical oxygen aimed at helping up to 10,000 patients per day, according to the French Foreign Ministry.

The White House was moving to share raw materials for the AstraZeneca vaccine by diverting some US orders to the Serum Institute of India. White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told the Associated Press the administration was working on other requests for personal protective equipment, tests and oxygen supplies.

india coronavirus New Delhi health system United States pandemic Brazil Mexico Medical aid Britain ventilator oxygen concentrator Germany Israel Pakistan World Health Organisation Emmanuel Macron AstraZeneca Vaccine covid-19
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