Workers refill medical oxygen cylinders at a charging station during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire/dpa
Workers refill medical oxygen cylinders at a charging station during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire/dpa

India on Friday logged over 332,730 new Covid-19 infections – once again the highest-ever daily infection count worldwide – as a major hospital in New Delhi reported several deaths while flagging a critical shortage of medical oxygen.

The South Asian country posted another grim record as it registered 2,263 deaths – its highest death toll from Covid-19 in a 24-hour period, government data showed. Overall, 186,920 people have died.

India recorded 314,835 cases on Thursday and the biggest surge globally since the pandemic began last year, has brought the Indian healthcare system to the breaking point.

United States had recorded the previous highest one-day spike in the world, of around 300,300 cases on January, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracking website.

Twenty-five of the “sickest” patients died in the last 24 hours at Sir Ganga Ram hospital in Delhi, which put out an emergency appeal to authorities on Friday morning, saying it had oxygen for only two more hours and 60 more patients were at risk. Oxygen supplies were replenished subsequently.

Hospital chairman DS Rana said there had been a large number of deaths of Covid-19 patients in 24 hours for the first time, but did not link them to oxygen shortage. He said the hospital was doing manual ventilation to ensure patients survive.

However, senior doctors told NDTV a lack of oxygen could have been a “contributory factor” in the deaths.

Delhi is the worst-affected among India cities, where several hospitals have flagged a growing shortage of oxygen, beds and medicines amid a rise in cases, and approached the courts for help.

The worst-hit Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is capital, is among the five provinces leading the surge in India, accounting for 67,013 fresh cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a series of high-level meetings to review the Covid-19 situation in the country with the Supreme Court calling the public health crisis a national emergency and directed the government to prepare a national plan.

Concerns about the rising cases in India has led some countries to impose travel restrictions on India. While the United Arab Emirates suspended all flights from India, including transit passengers, Canada will also ban passenger flights from India and Pakistan from Friday for 30 days.

India is the worst-affected country worldwide after the US, which has logged 31.9 million cases. It is recording its highest number of new Covid-19 cases, in a second wave that began in mid-February.

Experts attribute the rapid spread of cases to people’s failure in observing safety measures, as well as to the presence of more infectious variants of the virus.

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