South Asian nation reported 3,645 deaths over the past 24 hours
India’s coronavirus disaster deepened on Thursday with the daily death toll climbing above 3,600 as dozens of countries sent urgent medical aid to help tackle the spiralling crisis.
The United States and several European nations are starting to ease restrictions as vaccination campaigns pick up, but the pandemic is still worsening in many parts of the world.
The World Health Organization issued a stark warning to European nations Thursday that relaxing Covid measures could spark a “perfect storm” allowing cases to spiral — as in India.
“It is very important to realise that the situation in India can happen anywhere,” said WHO Europe chief Hans Kluge.
Death and infection rates have been rising exponentially throughout April in India, which experts blame in part on mass gatherings.
On Thursday, the south Asian nation reported 3,645 deaths over the past 24 hours, while confirmed new cases hit a new global record with more than 379,000. The official numbers are widely believed to be far below the reality.
The pandemic has claimed at least 3.1 million lives around the world, with India accounting for more than 200,000 fatalities.
In many Indian cities, hospitals are running out of beds as relatives of the sick crowd jostle for medicines and oxygen cylinders.
“We rushed to multiple hospitals, but were denied admission everywhere,” said the son of an 84-year-old woman who died at home this week after a desperate search for a hospital bed and oxygen in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal state.
The Indian government will open vaccinations to all adults from Saturday. It had previously limited shots to the over-45s and certain other groups.
Several states have warned, however, they do not have sufficient vaccine stocks and the expanded rollout is threatened by administrative bickering, confusion over prices and technical glitches on the government’s digital vaccine platform.
More than 40 countries have committed to sending India vital medical aid, particularly oxygen amid a severe shortage, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said.
The supplies include almost 550 oxygen-generating plants, more than 4,000 oxygen concentrators, 10,000 oxygen cylinders as well as 17 cryogenic tankers.
Hundreds of thousands of doses of Covid-19 treatment drugs as well as raw materials to produce vaccines were also being sent.
“It is an unprecedented situation… many countries have come forward on their own to offer us assistance,” Shringla said.
The United States is dispatching more than $100 million in supplies, with a flight due to arrive on Friday carrying including oxygen concentrators, cylinders, and other oxygen-generating equipment.
The WHO has said the virus variant feared to be contributing to the catastrophe on the sub-continent has now been found in more than a dozen countries.
But the body has stopped short of saying it is more transmissible, more deadly or able to dodge vaccines.
Africa’s disease control body also put out a warning that the continent could be overrun by infections if urgent measures are not taken to avert a similar disaster to India’s.
“We cannot be indifferent to what is happening in India. We must act now, decisively and collectively,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC.