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SOS reports panic as virus disrupts India’s healthcare system

NEW DELHI (AP) – Dr. Gautam Singh fears the sound of air conditioners every day, signaling that oxygen levels are extremely low, hearing his desperate patients begin to choke on air at the New Delhi emergency hospital where he works.

Like other Indian doctors who set another record for more than 350,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday for the fifth day in a row, the cardiologist was taken to begging for oxygen cylinders to keep patients alive for a day.

On Sunday evening, when oxygen supplies to other nearby hospitals were also empty, the desperate 43-year-old took to social media to post a passionate video on Twitter.

“Please send us oxygen,” he said in a choked voice. “My patients are dying.”

More about the COVID-19 epidemic

India was originally seen as a success story in the face of the epidemic, but the virus is now spreading through its nearly 1.4 billion population, and systems are beginning to crumble.

SOS messages sent by Singh reveal the extent of the panic.

In addition to consuming oxygen, resuscitation units operate at full capacity; almost all air conditioners are used. As the death toll rises, the night sky in some Indian cities shines with burial mounds as crematoria are overcrowded and bodies are burned in the open air.

The country reported 2,812 deaths on Monday, with about 117 Indians contracted the disease every hour, and experts say even those figures are “underestimated.” As a result of the new infections, the total number of India has reached more than 17.3 million, which is behind only the United States.

The deepening crisis is being countered by richer countries, such as the United States, Britain and Israel, which have vaccinated a relatively large proportion of their population and have been living with a “death from winter” and a decline in infections. India has a quadruple population of the United States, but had 11 times more new infections on Monday.

Doctors like Singh are at the forefront of trying to get the supplies they need to keep their patients alive.

On Monday, Singh received 20 oxygen cylinders, just enough for the hospital to be able to rest during the day until the air conditioners resumed their warning signals.

“I feel helpless because my patients survive hour by hour,” Singh said in a telephone interview. “I beg again, I hope someone will send oxygen to protect my patients for another day.”

No matter how bad the situation is, experts warn that it will most likely get worse.

Krishna Udayakumar, Founding Director of Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University, said it would be impossible for the country to continue the situation in the coming days.

“The situation in India is tragic, it is likely to worsen in a few weeks to months,” he said, adding that a “coordinated, global effort” to help India in the current crisis was needed.

The United States said Monday it was working to alleviate suffering in India with oxygen supplies, diagnostic tests, treatments, air conditioners and protective gear.

The White House also said it would make available the raw materials urgently needed for India to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Just as India was sending aid to the United States as our hospitals were strained at the beginning of the epidemic, we are determined to help India when it needs it,” President Biden tweeted on Sunday.

Assistance և assistance has been provided by the archive Pakistan, which says it can provide assistance including air conditioners, oxygen supply kits, digital X-ray equipment, security equipment and related items.

The German Ministry of Health has announced that urgent work is underway to develop a support package for India consisting of air conditioners, monoclonal antibodies, drug remedizivir, as well as surgical protective masks N95.

But many say that help is too late. The split is a major setback for a country that prides itself on being a role model for other developing countries.

Just three months ago, India’s leaders were enthusiastic, announcing that the worst was over.

In January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his victory over the coronavirus, telling a virtual gathering of the World Economic Forum that India’s success could not be compared to anything else.

Less than a month later, his Bharatya Ata Anata party made a decision calling Modi a “far-sighted leader” who had already “defeated” the virus.

In the second week of March, the Indian Minister of Health announced that the country was in the “final game” of the epidemic.

At the same time, patients arriving in Indian hospitals were much sicker and younger than they had previously been, prompting health experts to warn that India was landing on a temporary bomb.

Millions of Hindu devotees celebrated Holi throughout the country in late March, ignoring social distance guides and masks. Modin և other politicians led mammoth election rallies, where tens of thousands of people participated without masks. And millions more gathered last week for special Hindu prayers on the banks of the Ganges.

It is now suspected that all these events could have accelerated the unprecedented wave that India is now seeing.

“Many people across India are paying with their lives for this disgraceful behavior of political leaders,” Udayakumar said.

On Sunday, Modi tried to divert criticism from what he called a “storm” of infections that left the country “shocked.”

“True, it is true that many people become infected with coronary artery disease,” he said. “But the number of people recovering from the crown is equally high.”

The Indian government announced last week that it would expand its vaccination program to make all adults eligible, which has long been urged by health professionals.

But vaccines take time to show their impact on the number of new infections, and there are questions as to whether manufacturers will be able to keep up with demand. Vaccination rates around the country also appear to be slowing.

Ordinary citizens take matters into their own hands, doing what they say the government should have done a long time ago.

Volunteers, from students to tech professionals, non-profit organizations to journalists, spread the word about hospital beds, essential medicines, and oxygen cylinders.

Like Dr. Singh, many have turned to social media, particularly Twitter, for a list of plasma donor and oxygen supply lists.

The system is imperfect, but some people need much help.

New Delhi housewife Rashmi Kumar spent Sunday tweeting desperate requests for an oxygen cylinder for her seriously ill father. At the same time, he makes countless calls to hospitals and government helplines, but to no avail.

In the evening, his 63-year-old father was breathing.

“I was ready for the worst,” Kumar said.

But nowhere, one of his Twitter users reported that there was an oxygen cylinder about 60 kilometers (37 miles) away. Kumar drove to the man’s house, where the man handed over the cylinder.

“I was helped by a stranger as my own government continued to fail thousands of people like me,” he said. “Unfortunately, now everyone is independent.”


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