India once again reported a record number of cases and fatalities on Thursday as it faces a devastating second wave of Covid-19 infections that has pushed its health-care system to the brink of collapse. Health ministry data showed there were 412,262 new reported cases of infections over a 24-hour period, pushing the total tally to over 21 million — days after crossing the 20 million mark on Tuesday. India also reported its highest daily death toll, with 3,980 fatalities. But media reports suggest that the death rate is being underreported.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is facing criticism for allowing large crowds to gather for election rallies and religious festivals earlier this year as well as for failing to anticipate or prepare for a second wave. Cases started rising in February but the second wave accelerated in April. The resurgence overwhelmed hospitals which are struggling with bed shortages as well as a limited supply of oxygen and medicines to treat patients. The international community has pledged to send medical aid in the form of oxygen cylinders, concentrators and other medical supplies. Some of those aid shipments have started arriving in India, according to reports.
The situation, however, has not eased because the number of cases is moving up as is the severity of those cases, according to Abhay Soi, chairman and managing director of Max Healthcare, which has hospitals in Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab and Uttarakhand.
India has sufficient oxygen available, but the main issue lies around logistics, according to Siddharth Jain, director of Inox Air Products, one of India’s prominent industrial and medical gases manufacturers. Jain told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Wednesday that the country’s oxygen manufacturers have stepped up production by more than 30% in recent weeks. He said over 9,000 tons of oxygen is available in India per day while consumption of medical oxygen is slightly higher than 7,500 tons.