Oxygen crisis hits Delhi govt’s largest Covid hospital

People queue up at a shop to refill their oxygen cylinders in New Delhi on Saturday

For the fourth straight day, India on Sunday set a global daily record for new infections, spurred by an insidious new variant, undermining the government's premature claims of victory over the pandemic.

Hospitals across the city - government and private - have been facing an acute shortage of liquid oxygen as demand is high and supply has been hampered, sometimes because of a tussle between state governments and sometimes because of lack of cryogenic tankers.

The 349,691 confirmed cases over the past day took India's total to more than 16.9 million, behind only the United States. An additional 2,767 people were reported dead from the disease, according to health ministry data, taking the death toll to 192,311.

Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the Medical University of SC, said the government should have used the past year, when the virus was more under control, to stockpile medicines and develop systems to confront the likelihood of a new surge.

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.

"We believe it is important to work together to identify both bottlenecks in medical supply chains and potential solutions for overcoming these [bottlenecks], and to combat the global pandemic together and expedite ongoing vaccination efforts", the spokesman said.

Hospitals in the capital, New Delhi, and some of the worst-hit states like Maharashtra reported being critically short of beds and oxygen.

In a sign of the desperation unfolding over the shortages, a high court in Delhi warned Saturday it would "hang" anyone who tries to obstruct the delivery of emergency oxygen supplies, amid evidence that some local authorities were diverting tanks to hospitals in their areas. They also blame politicians and government authorities for allowing super-spreader events, including religious festivals and election rallies, to take place as recently as this month.

Over the past two months, the outbreak in India has exploded, with reports of super spreader gatherings, oxygen shortages, and medicine scarcity.

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

"Please help us get oxygen, there will be a tragedy here", Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a conference on Friday. The targeted posts include tweets from opposition ministers critical of Modi, journalists and ordinary Indians.

Each plant will be able to produce 2400 litres of oxygen per hour, it said.

He said an oxygen tanker had just entered the hospital complex and he hoped it would temporarily relieve the depleted supplies.

When the news anchor asked Bankata what happens when a hospital issues an SOS call as his had done, Bankata replied: "Nothing".

Some states have blockaded some of the shipments to keep supplies for themselves.

Hours later, the hospital received supplies to run for few hours.

Most of India's oxygen production capacity is centred around industries, many of which are concentrated in India's eastern states.

"Most importantly, they should have looked at what was going on in other parts of the world and understood that it was a matter of time before they would be in a similar situation, " Kuppalli said.

India is a major vaccine producer, but even after halting large exports of vaccines in March to divert them to domestic use, there are still questions of whether manufactures can produce them fast enough to bring down infections in time in the world's second most populous country.