The Star Malaysia

India reels from virus ‘storm’

Hospitals see oxygen shortage as cases climb

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Oxygen supplies in Indian hospitals were running perilously low 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% 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.

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.

But recent weeks have seen mass gatherings including millions attending the Kumbh Mela religious festival, political rallies and 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 on

yesterday showed nearly 300,000 new cases in 24 hours, among the world’s biggest daily totals, as hospitals reported oxygen shortages.

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

In the latest virus-related incident, at least 22 patients died in a hospital in western India yesterday after a disruption to their oxygen supply caused by a leaking tank, the health minister said, as the nationwide surge in cases soaks up supplies

of the crucial gas.

The incident in the city of Nashik, one of India’s worst-hit areas, happened after the tank of gas leaked, said Rajesh Tope, the health minister of Maharashtr­a, India’s richest state, where the city is located.

Meanwhile, European leaders are aiming to revive the EU’s sluggish vaccine rollout with more supplies and choice as some of the bloc’s biggest member nations struggle with worrying case numbers.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal markets commission­er, told French newspaper Le Figaro that the bloc was now set to have enough doses to cover 70% of its adult population by mid-July.

Government­s in South America, one of the worst-hit regions of the world, also stepped up efforts to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.

Colombia on Tuesday gave the green light for the private sector to buy and distribute vaccines under certain conditions, hoping to boost a slow immunisati­on campaign.

 ?? — AP ?? Superhero sanitation: indian social worker ashok Kurmi wearing a spider-Man costume as he sanitises a public transport bus at a train station in Mumbai.
— AP Superhero sanitation: indian social worker ashok Kurmi wearing a spider-Man costume as he sanitises a public transport bus at a train station in Mumbai.

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