Virus cases in India exceed 9 million; hospitals in the capital under pressure

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NEW DELHI (AP) – Intensive care wards at New Delhi hospitals near full capacity, and the city’s main crematorium is crowded, as coronavirus has surged in India’s capital and the country takes a milestone dark Friday, recording 9 million infections.

As the rate of new cases recorded globally in the country of 1.3 billion appears to be slowing, experts have warned that the official figures could offer false hope, as many infections could go undetected. In New Delhi, meanwhile, the disease is on the rise and health officials this week found the prevalence of infections in markets to be much higher than expected, with the city adding an average of 6,700 new cases per day. these last weeks.

Despite this, the markets are still full there and in other major cities, as fatigue from wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from others has set in during the recent season. festivals, including Diwali holiday celebrations. Experts fear that the meetings for the festival of light will cause a further increase in the number of cases in the coming weeks.

“The next four weeks are crucial. The road is very bumpy, ”said Dr SK Sarin, director of the New Delhi Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences.

The capital’s healthcare system is under enormous strain: government figures have shown that 90% of intensive care beds equipped with ventilators for patients with the virus and 86% of intensive care beds without ventilators were full Thursday.

At Aakash Healthcare, a private hospital in New Delhi, all intensive care beds were full and many patients were waiting outside the hospital, said pulmonologist Dr Akshay Budhraja. In a particularly worrying sign, young people were increasingly arriving with serious infections, he said.

Budhraja expressed frustration with the lack of understanding of the severity of the disease and the measures needed to slow its spread – not just in the markets, but even within the hospital.

Family members of patients who are likely infected with COVID-19 but asymptomatic were walking around the hospital. “They don’t understand,” he says.

Chief State Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the health system would manage to keep up with demand. He said New Delhi hoped to add 1,400 more intensive care beds and that all private hospitals were asked to reserve 80% of their intensive care beds and more than 60% of their other beds for patients infected with the virus.

“Our doctors, medical superintendents, medical directors and the entire medical fraternity have made such great arrangements to deal with COVID-19 that Delhi is not witnessing a crisis,” he said.

But at the city’s main crematorium, almost all of the pyres burn simultaneously. Families usually came in large groups to sing prayers and carry the body to the stake. Now every funeral is small, and loved ones in hazmat suits are rushing through the process.

The government plans to increase restrictions on the markets. But, so far, officials have resisted because they fear inflicting more damage on the economy. In the meantime, the fine for not wearing a mask has quadrupled to 2,000 rupees ($ 27) – a huge sum for the millions of Indians who live on less than $ 2 a day.

In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, authorities announced a weekend curfew from Friday in the city of Ahmedabad to fight infections.

Total coverage: Coronavirus pandemic

India is No. 3 worldwide in reported deaths, behind the United States and Brazil, and No. 2 in terms of infections recorded, although there are signs that the rate of new cases is slowing. It took India 12 days to go from 5 million cases to 6 million, but 22 days to go from 8 million to 9 million.

Experts warn that official figures, like elsewhere, are underestimated. India does not classify many deaths as due to the virus, and more and more people are not getting tested. Some experts are also concerned that the increased use of rapid, less accurate tests will result in a high number of missed cases.

Mobile test vans also pass through vulnerable areas of New Delhi to test people for the virus – but some hoped for more.

“They should do this (test) by going door to door,” said Ajay Kumar Jha, whose brother is being treated for COVID-19. “It will help because a lot of people are afraid to go get tested.”

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Associated Press reporters Ashok Sharma and Rishabh Jain contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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