NEW DELHI – Infections in India hit a new grim daily record on Thursday as demand for medical oxygen jumped sevenfold and the government denied reports it was delaying in distributing vital supplies from overseas.
The number of new confirmed cases has exceeded 400,000 for the second time since the devastating wave started last month. The 412,262 new cases brought India’s official tally to more than 21 million. The health ministry also reported 3,980 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 230,168. Experts believe both figures are underestimated.
Eleven COVID-19 patients died on Wednesday evening when the pressure in an oxygen line suddenly dropped at a government medical teaching hospital in Chengalpet, southern India, possibly due to a faulty valve , The Times of India reported.
Hospital officials said they repaired the pipeline last week, but oxygen consumption has since doubled, according to the newspaper.
Demand for hospital oxygen has increased sevenfold since last month, a government official said, as India scrambles to set up large oxygen factories and transport oxygen. India on Tuesday established a sea bridge to transport oxygen tankers from Bahrain and Kuwait to the Persian Gulf, officials said.
Most hospitals in India are not equipped with independent factories that generate oxygen directly for patients. Therefore, hospitals generally depend on liquid oxygen, which can be stored in cylinders and transported in tankers. But amid the outbreak, supplies in hard-hit places such as New Delhi are extremely short.
Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said India has enough liquid oxygen but faces capacity constraints to move it. Most of the oxygen is produced in the eastern regions of India while the demand has increased in the northern and western regions.
K. Vijay Raghvan, senior government science adviser, said this phase of the pandemic was “a very critical time for the country”.
The United States, Britain, Germany and several other countries are rushing for therapies, rapid viral tests and oxygen, as well as materials needed to boost domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines in order to relieve pressure on fragile health infrastructure.
Vaccine production in India is expected to be boosted, with the United States supporting a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccine components from the United States that have arrived in India will allow the manufacture of 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, said Daniel B. Smith, senior diplomat at the United States embassy in New Delhi.
Last month, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, called on President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on US commodity exports, which he said affected its COVID-19 vaccine production. .
The government, meanwhile, called “totally misleading” Indian media reports that it took seven days to finalize a procedure for distributing urgent medical supplies that began arriving on April 25.
The statement indicates that a streamlined and systematic mechanism for allocating supplies received by India has been put in place for efficient distribution. The Indian Red Cross is involved in distributing supplies from overseas, he said.