A fire in a COVID-19 hospital ward in western India killed 18 patients as the country struggles with an unprecedented wave that has filled hospitals and crematoriums.
NEW DELHI – A fire in a COVID-19 hospital ward in western India killed 18 patients early Saturday as the country battled the worst outbreak so far intensified a vaccination campaign for all adults, even when some states said that they don’t have enough jabs.
On Saturday, India broke another daily global record with 401,993 new cases, bringing its count to more than 19.1 million. Another 3,523 people died in the last 24 hours, increasing the total number of deaths to 211,853, according to the Ministry of Health. Experts believe that both numbers are a lower count.
The fire started in a COVID-19 infirmary on the ground floor of the Wellness Hospital in Bharuch, a city in the state of Gujarat, and was extinguished within an hour, police said. The cause is being investigated.
Another 31 patients were rescued from the fire by hospital staff and firefighters and their condition was stable, said police officer B.M Parmar. Late last month, a fire in an intensive care unit killed 13 COVID-19 patients in the Virar area, just outside Mumbai.
India’s government on Saturday changed its wobbly high-speed vaccination campaign, saying that all adults 18 and older can get vaccines. Since January, almost 10% of Indians have received a dose, but only about 1.5% have received both, although India is one of the world’s largest vaccine producers.
Some states have said they don’t have enough doses for everyone, and even the continued effort to inoculate people over 45 is failing.
The state of Maharashtra has said it will not be able to start the expanded vaccination on Saturday. The health minister of the capital New Delhi, Satyender Jain, said earlier this week that the city did not have enough doses to vaccinate people between 18 and 44 years old.
The Indian capital has also extended its one-week blockade for another week to stem the explosive increase in virus cases, tweeted Arvind Kejriwal, a leading elected official.
All stores and factories will remain closed until May 9, except those that provide essential services, such as grocery stores. People should not leave their homes, except for a handful of reasons, such as seeking medical attention or going to the airport or train stations. Daily wage earners and small businesses are expected to suffer another blow to their livelihoods.
Separately, 12 COVID-19 patients, including a doctor, with high-flow oxygen died on Saturday at a hospital in New Delhi after the supply ran out for 80 minutes, said S.C.L. Gupta, director of Hospital Batra.
Gupta said the hospital had been facing the manufacturers’ irregular supply of oxygen for more than a week, but he exhausted it completely for the first time.
He said the hospital’s tank has been refilled with enough oxygen for 12 hours and that he will be looking for refueling again.
The New Delhi news channel also said that a lawyer at Batra Hospital complained to a New Delhi court that it was hearing petitions from several hospitals on the matter.
Hospitals in the Indian capital have complained about emergencies caused by irregular oxygen supplies from manufacturers due to the sudden increase in demand caused by the massive increase in infections.
Faced with an unprecedented wave of COVID-19 that filled hospitals and crematoriums, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government described the pandemic as a “unique crisis in the century”. Modi held a cabinet meeting on Friday that discussed measures to save the country’s ruined health system by adding hospital beds, solving problems in the production, storage and transport of oxygen and facing shortages of essential medicines.
In a now familiar scene, television footage showed a woman panting in her car while her family was looking for a hospital bed on the outskirts of New Delhi. The 33-year-old woman was unable to find a room in three hospitals and died in the car on Friday, reported The Times of India.
Opposition leader in Congress, Rahul Gandhi, said the Modi government has completely failed to understand how to deal with the pandemic from the start, despite repeated warnings from scientists and experts.
“They continually ignored the growing cases and, instead, were busy with election campaigns. They encouraged over-propagation events, “said Gandhi in an interview with the Press Trust of India news agency.
Meanwhile, the United States has joined a growing list of countries that restrict travel from India, the White House said, citing the devastating increase in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants.
President Joe Biden spoke to Modi on Monday about the growing health crisis and promised to send assistance immediately. This week, the United States began distributing drugs, rapid virus and oxygen tests to India, along with some materials needed for India to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines.
In addition, a team of CDC public health experts was expected to be on site soon to help Indian health officials reduce the spread of the virus.
Other nations also sent assistance, and the Indian Air Force transported oxygen containers from Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok.
A German military aircraft with 120 fans left for India on Saturday morning, and plans were being made for other flights with more supplies. Also on board was a team of 13 people who will help prepare for the installation of a mobile oxygen production unit that will be sent to India next week, said the German news agency dpa.