The 4,187 new deaths brought India’s overall death toll to 238,270 since the start of the pandemic. It added 401,078 new cases in 24 hours, bringing its caseload to nearly 21.9 million – just behind the United States.
Health experts, who have expressed doubts about the official death toll, believe the new wave may not peak until the end of May, and there have been growing calls for tough measures at the national level.
Mortuaries and crematoriums have struggled to cope with the death toll, and makeshift funeral pyres are burning in parks and parking lots.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for dealing with a severe oxygen shortage, although the government says it is doing all it can.
Tamil Nadu State Chief Minister MK Stalin said in a letter to Modi on Friday that Tamil Nadu’s medical oxygen demand could double in the next two weeks.
“The availability of oxygen in Tamil Nadu is very, very critical,” Stalin said, adding that 13 patients have died in a hospital on the outskirts of Chennai due to lack of oxygen.
Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition congressional party, called on Modi to order a nationwide lockdown or the spread could be “devastating” for India and other countries.
The government, stung by criticism of its handling of the crisis, has largely left the administrations of individual states to handle the crackdown on the pandemic.
As major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai have been boosted by additional supplies of oxygen – largely from abroad – and new hospital beds have been opened, the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have all ordered lockdowns to counter an explosion in Covid cases.
Lockdown in Bangalore
Karnataka has ordered a two-week statewide lockdown from Monday in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. The state added more than 48,000 cases in one day to Bengaluru, home to many Indian and global information technology giants, bearing the brunt.
A Bangalore doctor said he had to reject patients “left, right and center” as his hospital struggled to find more oxygen.
“The problem is that the demand is so high that we need constant oxygen,” said Dr Sanjay Gururaj, medical director of Shanti Hospital and Research Center.
The hospital sends a truck twice a day to oxygen factories on the outskirts of town to bring back 12 giant oxygen cylinders.
“Normally it would have lasted over two weeks – now it lasts a little over a day,” he added.
The city of nine million people, which experienced 1,907 coronavirus deaths in April, recorded more than 950 in the first seven days of May alone.
The lack of oxygen and intensive care beds is blamed for the dramatic increase in the death rate.
“Extent of cases”
Neighboring Kerala, which adds around 40,000 cases a day, began a nine-day lockdown from Saturday. Tamil Nadu, which includes the large city of Chennai, will begin a 10-day lockdown from Monday.
With daily cases exceeding 40,000, the state is aggressively increasing its resources, including converting hundreds of industrial oxygen cylinders into medical oxygen, said Dr Amar Fetle, state official for COVID-19.
“The scale of cases from last year to today is very different,” he said, adding that the increase in the number of cases meant more hospitalizations and more strain on health systems. with almost full hospitals.
Coronavirus cases and deaths have also increased in the state of West Bengal since last week’s elections, which were marked by huge rallies organized by Modi and his rival, Chief State Minister Mamata. Banerjee.
The main city, Kolkata, also suffers from a critical shortage of oxygen and beds.
The Hindu nationalist government imposed a three-month nationwide lockdown last year which helped stem the spread of the first big wave, but also caused enormous economic damage.
There are fears that the new surge could jeopardize the recovery of Asia’s third largest economy. However, the rising death toll has increased pressure for the government to act.
Opposition leader Gandhi said in his letter to the Prime Minister that “your government’s lack of a clear and coherent COVID and vaccination strategy … has placed India in an extremely dangerous position”.
Modi was to “understand India’s responsibility in a globalized and interconnected world” as “the home of one in six human beings on the planet”.
“Allowing the uncontrollable spread of this virus in our country will be devastating, not only to our people, but to the rest of the world.”
The government did not respond immediately.