India Hits Grim Virus Record 05/06 06:38
Infections in India hit another grim daily record on Thursday as demand for
medical oxygen jumped sevenfold and the government denied reports that it was
slow in distributing life-saving supplies from abroad.
NEW DELHI (AP) -- Infections in India hit another grim daily record on
Thursday as demand for medical oxygen jumped sevenfold and the government
denied reports that it was slow in distributing life-saving supplies from
The number of new confirmed cases breached 400,000 for the second time since
the devastating surge began last month. The 412,262 new cases pushed India's
official tally to more than 21 million. The Health Ministry also reported 3,980
deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 230,168. Experts believe
both figures are an undercount.
Eleven COVID-19 patients died when pressure in an oxygen line dropped
suddenly in a government medical college hospital in Chengalpet in southern
India on Wednesday night, possibly because of a faulty valve, The Times of
India newspaper reported.
Hospital authorities said they repaired the pipeline last week, but the
consumption of oxygen had doubled since then, the newspaper said.
Demand for hospital oxygen has increased sevenfold since last month, a
government official said, as India scrambles to set up large oxygen plants and
transport oxygen. India created a sea bridge on Tuesday to ferry oxygen tankers
from Bahrain and Kuwait in the Persian Gulf, officials said.
Most hospitals in India aren't equipped with independent plants that
generate oxygen directly for patients, As a result, hospitals typically rely on
liquid oxygen, which can be stored in cylinders and transported in tankers. But
amid the surge, supplies in hard-hit places such as New Delhi are running
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said India has enough liquid oxygen but it's
facing capacity constraints in moving it. Most oxygen is produced in the
eastern parts of India while the demand has risen in northern and western parts.
K. Vijay Raghvan, a principal scientific adviser to the government, said
this phase of the pandemic was "a very critical time for the country."
The United States, Britain, Germany and several other nations are rushing
therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen, along with materials needed to
boost domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines to ease pressure on the fragile
India's vaccine production is expected to get a boost with the United States
supporting a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccine components from the U.S. that have arrived in India will enable the
manufacturing of 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, said Daniel B.
Smith, the senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Last month, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute
of India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, appealed to President Joe Biden to
lift the embargo on U.S. export of raw materials, which he said was affecting
its production of COVID-19 shots.
The government meanwhile described as "totally misleading" Indian media
reports that it took seven days to come up with a procedure for distributing
urgent medical supplies that started arriving on April 25.
The statement sad a streamlined and systematic mechanism for allocation of
the supplies received by India has been put in place for effective
distribution. The Indian Red Cross Society is involved in distributing supplies
from abroad, it said.