Hospitals are besieged with critically ill patients gasping for air in India, which reported a record-shattering 346,786 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, as the country has become the new epicenter of the pandemic.
Saturday was the third consecutive day India set a world record for daily infections, with the country averaging more than 331,000 new cases during the three-day stretch.
India also recorded 2,624 Covid-related fatalities Saturday, a new record for a single 24-hour span.
In the capital city of Delhi, hospitals have been unable to supply oxygen to many in critical need, and crematoriums have been overwhelmed.
Moolchand Healthcare, which runs hospitals throughout Delhi, tweeted Saturday morning it had “less than 2 hours of oxygen” for 135 Covid patients, many on life support, adding it had been unable to reach government officials to plead for assistance.
While the official death toll in India has been staggering, a New York Times report published Saturday cites experts who contend that tally represents only a fraction of total fatalities. Politicians and hospital administrators may be motivated to “undercount or overlook” large numbers of deaths, according to the analysts interviewed by the Times, while crestfallen families may be hesitant to notify officials of Covid-related deaths as well.
“It’s a complete massacre of data,” Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, told the Times. “From all the modeling we’ve done, we believe the true number of deaths is two to five times what is being reported.”
Health experts worldwide worry that a new variant of the coronavirus, B.1.617, that’s often referred to as the “double mutant,” is largely responsible for the devastation in India. “While complacency in adhering to masks and physical distancing might have played a role, it seems increasingly likely that this second wave has been fueled by a much more virulent strain,” Vikram Patel, Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School, wrote in the Indian Express. According to Cambridge University’s Ravi Gupta, vaccines will likely work against B.1.617 by protecting against severe illness and death, “but not against infection in those with poorer immune responses.”
994,351. That’s the total number of Covid-19 infections that have been reported by India’s Ministry of Health and Welfare over the past three days. Prior to Thursday, no country in the world had ever reported more than 300,000 new cases in a single day.