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India’s health system on brink of collapse as coronavirus infections surge

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REUTERS: India reported the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus infections for a second day on Friday, surpassing 330,000 new cases, as it struggles with a health system overwhelmed by patients and plagued by accidents.

Deaths in the past 24 hours also jumped to a record 2,263, the health ministry said, while officials across northern and western India, including the capital, New Delhi, warned most hospitals were full and running out of oxygen.

The surge in cases came as a fire in a hospital in a suburb of Mumbai treating COVID-19 patients killed 13 people, the latest accident to hit a facility crowded with virus sufferers.

On Wednesday, 22 patients died at a public hospital in the western state of Maharashtra when their oxygen supply ran out due to a leaking tank, after at least nine more died in a hospital fire last month in the state’s capital of Mumbai.

“It is grim. It is grave … there is an extreme shortage of ICU beds,” T.S. Singh Deo, health minister of the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, told Reuters.

“We’ll need to be very careful in the rural areas. If it spreads there, then it will be out of control.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government has been criticised for relaxing virus curbs too soon, met chief ministers of the worst-affected states, including the capital Delhi, Maharashtra and Modi’s home state of Gujarat, to discuss the crisis.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said this week people had largely given up COVID precautions and “became very careless” before the surge.

Daily infections hit 332,730, up from 314,835 the previous day when India set a record that surpassed one set by the United States in January, of 297,430 new cases. The U.S. tally has since fallen.

Delhi reported more than 26,000 new cases and 306 deaths, or about one fatality every five minutes, the fastest since the pandemic began.

Medical oxygen and beds have become scarce, with major hospitals putting up notices saying they have no room for any more patients and police fanning out to secure oxygen supplies. read more

“We regret to inform that we are suspending any new patient admissions in all our hospitals in Delhi … till oxygen supplies stabilise,” Max Healthcare, which runs a network of hospitals, said on Twitter as it appealed for oxygen.

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