Deaths climb as India reels from deadly Covid wave

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment with a coronavirus patient outside the casualty ward at a New Delhi hospital

On Saturday, Twitter complied with the government's request and prevented people in India from viewing more than 50 tweets that appeared to criticise the administration's handling of the pandemic. Each plant will be able to produce 2,400 litres of oxygen per hour, a government statement said Friday.

But the crisis in the country of almost 1.4 billion people was deepening, amid criticism of the government's response and allegations that the scarce supplies of oxygen had been diverted by local officials to hospitals in their areas.

The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients. Over the past two months, the outbreak in India has exploded, with reports of super spreader gatherings, oxygen shortages, and medicine scarcity.

One man identified as Amit who was grieving for his brother at Delhi's Jaipur Golden hospital said he had seen families running around with oxygen cylinders trying to get them refilled.

"We have ramped up the production as oxygen consumption is rising through the roof".

At the Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 people on Saturday, even as government figures in the city with a population of 1.8 million put the total number of deaths at just 10.

The New Delhi Television channel later cited the hospital chairman as saying the deaths can not be ascribed to a lack of oxygen.

India's Supreme Court told Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government on Thursday it wanted a "national plan" for the supply of oxygen and essential drugs for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

The head gravedigger at New Delhi's largest Muslim cemetery, where 1,000 people have been buried during the pandemic, said more bodies are arriving now than a year ago.

A man reacts next to the body of his father who died from COVID-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi India
A man reacts next to the body of his father who died from COVID-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi India

The surge in India is expected to peak in mid-May with the daily count of infections reaching half a million, the Indian Express said, citing an internal government assessment.

The government has deployed military planes and trains to get oxygen from the far corners of the country to Delhi.

The unfolding crisis is most visceral in India's overwhelmed graveyards and crematoriums, and in heartbreaking images of gasping patients dying on their way to hospitals due to lack of oxygen.

At another hospital in the capital, questions were raised about whether low oxygen supplies had caused deaths. In a tweet, it said it had been waiting for fresh supplies since the morning.

She said the United States has already provided India some $1.4 billion in health assistance, emergency relief supplies, pandemic training for Indian state and local health officials, and ventilators.

On Friday, the Press Trust of India news agency reported that a tanker-truck carrying oxygen supplies in Delhi's neighboring state of Haryana went missing. Days before, the news agency reported, a minister in Haryana blamed Delhi authorities for looting an oxygen tanker when it was crossing their territory.

For the second consecutive day, the country set a global record for daily infections with 332,730.

She said the government should have used the previous year, when the virus was more under control, to develop plans to address a surge and "stockpiled medications and developed public-private partnerships to help with manufacturing essential resources in the event of a situation like this". It has opened up the immunisation programme to all adults but faces a shortage.

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