India reported more than 400,000 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, breaking the one-day world record, as a devastating second wave of the pandemic continues to ravage the country, crippling an already weakened health system.
After 10 consecutive days of more than 300,000 new confirmed cases, India’s Ministry of Health said on Saturday that the number had risen to 401,993.
Covid-related deaths also increased, with 3,523 deaths reported in the previous 24 hours.
Eighteen of those deaths were attributable to a fire in a Covid-19 Ward on the ground floor of a hospital in West India that also injured 31 other patients.
Despite the alarming figures, experts say those figures represent only a fraction of total deaths and infections.
Bhramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan, said daily cases could exceed 500,000 by mid-May.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview with the Indian Express newspaper, advised India to implement a temporary nationwide shutdown, which the US infectious disease expert argued “could have a significant impact on the dynamics of the outbreak.”
The executive director of Batra Hospital in New Delhi addressed Twitter on Saturday morning to broadcast an SOS, warning that he and his colleagues were in “crisis mode” due to lack of oxygen supplies. Batra’s medical director later confirmed that eight coronavirus patients died, including one of the hospital’s own doctors, due to lack of oxygen for the next hour before the tanks were refilled. Last weekend, 26 coronavirus patients died gasping for air at Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi after running out of oxygen. India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Thursday that 40 countries have pledged support and pledged to send urgently needed oxygen-related equipment and therapies. The United States announced Wednesday that it would offer thousands of oxygen tanks and concentrators to India as part of a $100 million aid package. The United States had already delivered 1,100 refillable oxygen cylinders, the White House said in a statement. India opened coronavirus vaccines to all adults on Saturday, but limited vaccine supply and access have hampered implementation. In addition, Dr. Bharat Pankhania, of the University of Exeter, told The Associated Press that “extensive evidence” shows that ” having people wait in a long, crowded, cluttered queue could in itself be a source of infection.”As of Saturday, only 2.1% of India’s population had been vaccinated.