India’s coronavirus cases top 5 million amid rising oxygen demand

By Sarwar Kashani

New Delhi, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- India’s coronavirus cases crossed the five million mark on Wednesday with a single-day jump of over 90,000 infections, according to the federal health ministry, amid rising demand of oxygen for critically ill patients.

The ministry said that 90,123 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours from Tuesday morning, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 5.02 million in the country of over 1.3 billion people.

With this, India has become only the second country in the world to cross the grim milestone of five million cases after the United States that has some 6.7 million cases. Brazil is at the third spot on the list with nearly 4.4 million cases.

The Indian health ministry said that 1,290 more people succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 82,066.

While there has been an alarming rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in India’s impoverished towns and villages with a weak health care system, about half of the currently active cases are concentrated in three major states – Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai, in the west, and Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in south India.

India’s rate of fresh coronavirus infections has of late been the fastest and the most alarming in the world with the country now accounting for nearly one-sixth of all Covid-19 infections recorded globally since the outbreak began in China some nine months ago.

The last one million infections came in just 12 days. The latest seven-day average of daily infections in India has been over 93,000 cases, which, according to the worldometers tracker, is much higher than the peak in the US in late June when its daily surge was around 69,000,

With this rate, India is now closing on and is expected to surpass the US, which has more than 6.7 million cases, currently the highest caseload in the world.

The surge has also piled up pressure on India’s overall weak health infrastructure, particularly in its rural and semi-urban areas, amid rising demand for oxygen for critical patients.

According to the health ministry, over 6 percent of the active one million coronavirus patients need oxygen.

The ministry, however, rejected the reports that there was a shortage of oxygen supply.

“We have set up a virtual control room where state governments can inform if there is any shortage,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan told reporters on Tuesday.

He said there was a “surplus of 1,900 metric tonnes” of oxygen currently available in the country and the problem was at a facility level and in inventory management.

“It is important that every state ensures proper oxygen inventory management in the hospitals. A possible stock-out alert has to be generated so that oxygen can be replenished. We have also asked the states to set up control rooms at the state level,” Bhushan said.

On a slightly brighter side of the health crisis, the government highlighted that the coronavirus deaths in India were significantly lower than in other countries in the world.

The US has just over 200,000 deaths and Brazil with about 130,207, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.

The government of India has already clarified that it did not plan to enforce a new nationwide lockdown like the one it imposed in late March, with restrictions that were among the strictest in the world.

The lockdown was relaxed in a phased manner from June 8 onwards and most restrictions have been eased by now.

Almost all activities, except educational institutions and international flights, have resumed. EFE-EPA

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