'Lives at risk': Delhi hospitals send out SOS for oxygen at night

Lula Sharp
April 25, 2021

Twenty critically ill patients died overnight at Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi amid a serious oxygen crisis, officials said on Saturday.

India reported 349,691 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the fourth day in a row the country has set a world record for daily infections during the coronavirus pandemic, according to government and scientific tallies. The court made the statement when it was hearing a petition on oxygen supply. More than 130 Covid patients are on life support, it stressed.

Jitender Singh Shunty, who runs a non-profit medical service in India's capitol, said that 78 bodies were cremated in a single day at one location on Tuesday He said past year, the maximum number of bodies he helped cremate in one day was 18. "We request Delhi Government and Central government to help us", he added. In the north district, police also came to rescue of Sant Parmanand Hospital by providing 71 oxygen cylinders after they received an SOS message.

The court told the Delhi government to give it one instance of who was obstructing the oxygen supply and said "we will hang that man".

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The Delhi government told the court that the healthcare system will "collapse" if the national capital does not get its sanctioned amount of medical oxygen.

As Indians were cooped up indoors for months, industrial tanks were repurposed for medical use and tanker trucks raced over empty motorways to transport oxygen across the vast country to hotspots. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he is looking at how the United Kingdom could help India. There is a shortage of life-saving medicines and hospital beds too.

Each plant will be able to produce 2400 litres of oxygen per hour, it said.

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And the devastating effect is evident in the images pouring in from crematoriums across the country - of anguished families waiting for hours to perform last rites, mass cremations as cities run out of space to honour the dead and incessant plumes of smoke from funeral pyres.

Earlier in the hearing, Maharaja Agrasen Hospital submitted that they had over 100 patients under critical care and needed oxygen immediately.

Health experts said India became complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control, lifting restrictions that allowed for the resumption of big gatherings.

It quoted unidentified officials as saying "low pressure oxygen" could be the cause of their deaths.

The New Delhi Television channel later cited the hospital chairman as saying the deaths can not be ascribed to a lack of oxygen.

He said an oxygen tanker had just entered the hospital complex and he hoped it would temporarily relieve the depleted supplies.

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