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At least 20 COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit at Jaipur Golden Hospital in New Delhi died overnight when “oxygen pressure was low,” the Indian Express newspaper reported.
“Our supplies were delayed by seven to eight hours on Friday evening, and the supply we received last night is only 40% of the supplies we need,” the newspaper quoted the hospital’s medical superintendent Dr. DK Baluja.
The government stepped up efforts to bring medical oxygen to hospitals using special Oxygen Express trains, Air Force planes, and trucks for transporting tankers.
However, the crisis in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people worsened amid criticism of the government’s response and allegations that scarce oxygen supplies had been diverted to hospitals in their areas by local officials. The Supreme Court told Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government last week that it wanted a national plan for the supply of oxygen and essential drugs to treat coronavirus patients.
The court acted as India’s fragile and underfunded healthcare system tore up just months after the world’s second-most populous country leaders believed they had weathered the worst pandemic.
Now hospital officials are using social media to ask authorities to replenish their oxygen supplies. Early Saturday, Bankata Batra Hospital reported severe oxygen starvation in its 190 patients.
When the newscaster asked Bankata what happens when a hospital like him makes an SOS call, Bankata replied, “Nothing. It’s over. It’s over.”
Hours later, the hospital received supplies that could run for a few hours.
As the oxygen shortage deepened, local officials in several states disrupted the movement of tankers and diverted supplies to their areas.
On Friday, the Press Trust of India news agency reported that a tanker with oxygen supplies had disappeared in Delhi’s neighboring state of Haryana. Days earlier, the news agency reported, a minister in Haryana accused the Delhi authorities of ransacking an oxygen tanker as it was crossing their territory.
“Unfortunately, many such incidents have occurred and are having a serious impact on hospitals that require oxygen,” said Saket Tiku, president of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association.
In the meantime, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden government’s top medical advisor on the pandemic, that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with their Indian agency to provide technical assistance and assistance.
“It is a dire situation that we are trying to help in any way we can,” said Fauci at the coronavirus briefing at the White House.
“They have a situation there where variants have occurred. We have not yet fully characterized the variants and the relationship between the vaccines’ protectability. However, we clearly believe they need vaccines,” he said.