India reels from COVID-19 ‘storm’

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Oxygen supplies in Indian hospitals were running perilously low yesterday as daily COVID-19 deaths surged past 2,000 for the first time in one of the world’s most brutal ongoing coronavirus waves.

Governments remain fearful of similar surges elsewhere in the world with many vaccine rollouts hampered by low supplies, and a top European Union official promised to have enough doses available to vaccinate 70 per cent of the bloc’s adults by the summer.

India – home to 1.3 billion people – is also struggling with low vaccine supplies and has put the brakes on exports of locally produced AstraZeneca shots as it fights a terrifying COVID-19 wave that has overwhelmed its hospitals.

“I am scared for my parents and relatives more than I am scared for myself because they are not young anymore and getting admitted into a hospital right now is next to impossible,” a resident of the Indian capital Delhi told AFP.

There had been hopes that despite its packed cities and poor healthcare, India had managed to dodge largely unscathed a pandemic that has killed more than three million people around the world.

A worker cleans a newly set up C0VID- 19 hospital at Science Center in Mumbai, India. PHOTO: AP

But recent weeks have seen mass gatherings including millions attending the Kumbh Mela religious festival, political rallies as well as lavish weddings – and a terrifying rise in cases.

Nepal’s former king and queen tested positive on their return after attending the Kumbh Mela, their press secretary said on Tuesday.

Indian Health Ministry data yesterday showed nearly 300,000 new infections in 24 hours, among the world’s biggest daily totals, as hospitals around the country reported oxygen shortages.

“This second corona wave came like a storm,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an address to the nation on Tuesday.