Families in India are being left to ferry their loved ones from hospital to hospital in search of treatment as the country’s new coronavirus infections hit a record peak for the fifth day.
Desperate relatives have been pleading for oxygen outside in the street as many coronavirus patients have been turned away by overcrowded hospitals.
One woman said her 50-year-old brother was turned away by two hospitals and died waiting to be seen at a third as his oxygen tank ran out.
Daily infections rose to 352,991 in the last 24 hours as prime minister Narendra Modi faces mounting criticism for allowing Hindu festivals and huge election rallies to go ahead – events that likely accelerated the surge in infections.
The Madras High Court has accused the Election Commission of India of being “singularly responsible” for the second wave, with chief justice Sanjib Banerjee even saying officials should probably be “booked on murder charges” for letting the political rallies take place.
Meanwhile, officials have called in medical personnel from the armed forces to help out in COVID facilities.
While New Delhi and Mumbai have been among the hardest hit, the situation is worsening in cities and states across India as health services buckle under extreme pressure.
A two-week lockdown is being imposed in the state from Tuesday evening after the city of Bangalore reported more than 20,000 new cases alone on Sunday.
The state has a positivity rate of almost 20%, meaning one in five COVID-19 tests are coming back positive.
Hospitals in the western state of Gujarat are facing severe shortages of oxygen, while bed space is also running low.
In the state’s largest city of Ahmedabad, just seven ICU beds out of a total of 1,277 were available in 166 private hospitals designated to treat coronavirus patients.
“The problem is grim everywhere, especially in smaller hospitals, which do not have central oxygen lines,” said Mona Desai, former president of the Ahmedabad Medical Association.
Trains carrying tankers of oxygen have been sent in to the state, which is India’s second-most populous and the worst hit in the country.
Deaths have jumped by over 200% since April in Maharashtra and they hit a new daily record on Sunday with 832 fatalities recorded.
As the situation worsens, free COVID-19 vaccinations have been offered to all citizens between the ages of 18 to 45.
Restrictions have been imposed in some of the worst-hit districts in Haryana, including work from home orders and banning gatherings of more than five people.
Four coronavirus patients died at a private hospital in Gurgaon on Sunday and another four at a hospital in Rewari after they allegedly ran out of medical oxygen, according to The Hindustan Times.
In the capital of New Delhi, bodies are having to be burned in makeshift facilities offering mass services as burial grounds run out of space.
Overcrowded hospitals have been turning away patients and a spokesperson for one hospital, Sir Ganga Ram, said it is in “beg-and-borrow mode”.
In the central city of Bhopal, there are hours-long waits at some crematoriums despite workers desperately increasing capacity.
At Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, more than 110 people were cremated on Saturday – despite government figures stating the total number of virus deaths in the city was just 10.
What’s the situation with vaccines?
Several states, including Maharashtra, were forced to halt vaccinations on Sunday as they said supplies were not available.
Vaccine demand has outpaced supply this month, with companies struggling to boost their output following a fire at the facility making the AstraZeneca jab and a shortage of raw material.
By the end of last week, less than 10% of India’s population had received a jab.
What is happening with the IPL?
The Indian Premier League has been continuing despite the dire public health emergency.
Officials at the Board of Control for Cricket in India are keen to keep the tournament running but the exit of high-profile players could put the competition in doubt.
The 11 English cricketers still involved in the competition do not have any immediate plans to leave, PA news agency understands.
However, three Australian players pulled out at the weekend and high-profile Indian star Ravichandran Ashwin stood down to support his extended family through the crisis.