India's grim new COVID milestone as health system collapses

Newborns need oxygen as India COVID crisis grows

As India pleads for help battling coronavirus, more heartbreaking news continues to emerge - this time the number of children who are desperate for oxygen.

One children's clinic in Delhi raised the alarm on Twitter over a shortage of oxygen that has reportedly left around 25 to 30 newborns and children at risk.

The actual number is likely to be much higher as the case load is understood to be seriously under-reported.

"Oxygen is a basic requirement of a hospital and a consistent supply has not been assured. We are constantly firefighting," the head of the Madhukar Rainbow Children's Hospital Dr Dinesh told the Indian Express daily.

The grim news came as the total number of cases in India soared to almost 20 million.

India's underfunded health care system is under massive strain, with a fatal shortages of beds, drugs and oxygen leaving some to die awaiting treatment in long queues outside hospitals in capital New Delhi and other cities.

 

Several hospitals sent out desperate appeals for oxygen on social media overnight, with deliveries arriving only just arriving in time.

But for many others it was too late.

Health ministry data on Monday showed that India had added around 370,000 new infections in the previous 24 hours as well as 3,400 deaths.

Meanwhile, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly warned the Morrison Government Australians could die overseas when he recommended the government block citizens coming home if they had been in India in the previous fortnight.

Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt continued to defend the move on Monday, arguing it was necessary to prevent a "third wave" in Australia.

But the Prime Minister opened the door to abandoning the closure before May 15, saying authorities would be "reviewing it before then".

"This only needs to be there in place for as long as it needs to be there to keep Australians safe," Mr Morrison said.

Channel 7 reported the ban would be scrapped on May 15, with charter flights to resume to return trapped Australians.

 

Returnees would be sent to the Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory, which is set to increase the number of people it can hold.

While Prof Kelly said on Tuesday that he did not "advise anything in relation to fines", his advice to Mr Hunt did detail the penalties that would apply if the government issued the order under the Biosecurity Act.

Prof Kelly's advice also cautioned of the potential consequences including "the risk of serious illness without access to health care, the potential for Australians to be stranded in a transit country, and in a worst-case scenario, deaths".

 

'OXYGEN EXPRESS'

Federal and state authorities have been scrambling to get extra oxygen to hospitals, including by sourcing it from industry and sending special "Oxygen Express" trains.

Foreign assistance has also been pouring in, including from Germany and France, which this weekend sent medical equipment including oxygen-generating plants.

"Out there the hospitals are full. People are sometimes dying in front of the hospitals. They have no more oxygen," German ambassador Walter J. Lindner said.

Twenty-four people died in one hospital overnight on Sunday in the southern state of Karnataka after the hospital ran out of oxygen, press reports and sources said, though the district administration denied that shortages had caused the deaths.

Another 12 died on Saturday in a hospital in the capital New Delhi after it ran out of oxygen, reports said

Adding to the pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court on Sunday ordered the government to rectify the oxygen situation in Delhi by early Tuesday morning Australian time.

 

The surge has been blamed in part on new virus variants and the government having allowed huge religious and political gatherings in recent months.

The total caseload is now 19.9 million with 219,000 deaths.

Per capita, however, the rates remain much lower than many other countries. Brazil, for example -- which has a population less than a fifth the size of India's -- has recorded almost 410,000 deaths and the United States around 575,000.

India's vaccination drive is also faltering, with around 15.7 million shots administered so far, equating to just over one per cent of the population of 1.3 billion people.str-stu/oho

Originally published as Newborns need oxygen as India COVID crisis grows



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