India passes 20m Covid cases as calls grow for national lockdown | India
India has passed a dire milestone of 20 million Covid-19 cases as the country has been increasingly urged to implement a national lockdown.
On Tuesday, India reported 357,229 new cases in the past 24 hours, while the death toll rose 3,449 as a deadly virus wave showed no sign of indulgence. Many health experts believe India’s true death toll is five to ten times higher than the official data.
While the country continued to grapple with a lack of oxygen and hospital beds and intensive care units for coronavirus patients, as well as crematoriums overflowing with corpses, Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called for a nationwide lockdown.
“The only way to stop the spread of corona is through a complete lockdown,” Gandhi said on Twitter. He said government inaction is killing innocent people.
Many of India’s hardest hit states and cities are regionally closed, including Delhi and Mumbai. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has refused to impose a nationwide lockdown as it would mean a huge economic toll.
India’s first nationwide lockdown, imposed in March 2020, caused a catastrophic humanitarian crisis among Indian day laborers, leaving an estimated 75 million people into poverty.
However, the Indian health system continued to be brought to its knees by the inexorable surge in Covid-19 cases. On Monday, 23 patients died in a hospital in Karnataka state when oxygen supplies became scarce.
In a major decision, the Delhi Supreme Court announced that it would punish government officials if hospitals were not given oxygen. “Enough is enough,” they said.
The capital Delhi was the deadliest day of the pandemic on Monday with 448 Covid-19 deaths.
At the gates of the Lok Nayak Hospital in Delhi with 1,500 Covid-19 beds, all of which are full, the continuing desperation of the situation in the capital was visible. Ambulances carrying critical patients were repeatedly turned away because there was no space.
In an ambulance was 60-year-old Hasima Begum, who gasped when her oxygen level dropped to a fatal 30%.
“We’ve been to four hospitals this morning, but there are no beds anywhere,” said her 17-year-old grandson, MD Kaif. “They say she might have 10 minutes to live if we can’t get her oxygen and a bed.”
But as in all the other hospitals they had been to that morning, there was no room for Begum. While the family waited at the gates, they were presented with a consent form to sign, stating that it was not the ambulance or hospital fault if Begun died without being admitted. “We are helpless, what can we do now?” said Kaif.
As soon as an ambulance left, three more showed up in their place, all with Covid-19 patients in dire need. Sasi Devi, 47, was lying on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. This was the sixth time her family had brought her here in hopes of acceptance.
“Give me poison, end this pain,” Devi croaked. But her son returned from the gates of the hospital, shaking his head. “No oxygen bottle, no bed,” he said quietly. “So now we’re going to take her home to die.”
Others waited for their dead to return. 29-year-old Priyanka Gupta sobbed as she said she had been waiting all day to recover the body of her mother, 57-year-old Rita Devi.
“Yesterday my mother was made to wait in front of this hospital for six hours, but they wouldn’t let her in even if her oxygen dropped to 19%,” said Gupta. “It wasn’t until she was dead that she was finally taken to the hospital, and now I don’t know when I can get her body back.”