India tops 200,000 COVID deaths as virus surge breaks health system

 India tops 200,000 COVID deaths as virus surge breaks health system

India marked a grim milestone Wednesday with 200,000 people lost to COVID-19 — as a relentless surge of new cases overwhelms hospitals, sends families searching for oxygen supplies, and has seen parking lots in the capital New Delhi converted into crematoriums.

The health ministry reported a single-day record of 3,293 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the world’s second-most populous country’s total fatalities to 201,187.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, also reported 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million.

The previous high of 350,000 on Monday had capped a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day spikes in any country during the pandemic.

The country is the fourth to cross 200,000 deaths, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico – but experts believe the infections and fatalities in India are severe undercounts.

For the past week, more than 2,000 Indians have died each day.

Relatives, friends and graveyard workers prepare to lower the body of a COVID-19 victim during a burial at a graveyard in New Delhi, India.
Relatives, friends and graveyard workers prepare to lower the body of a COVID-19 victim during a burial at a graveyard in New Delhi.
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images

Hospitalizations and deaths have reached record highs, patients are suffocating because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out and desperate families are sending SOS messages on social media in efforts to locate oxygen cylinders.

Crematoriums have spilled over into parking lots, lighting up night skies in some cities, including the capital.

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen, in New Delhi, India.
A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen in New Delhi.
AP/Altaf Qadri

Many countries have offered assistance, including the US, which has promised to send personal protective equipment, tests and oxygen supplies.

The US also will send raw materials for vaccines, strengthening India’s capacity to manufacture more AstraZeneca doses.

Coronavirus victims are set to be cremated in New Delhi, India.
Coronavirus victims are set to be cremated in New Delhi.
MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images

Radha Gobindo Pramanik is among the many citizens who lost a family member to the virus. His daughter, Navanita Paramanik Rajput, died on April 18.

At first, Rajput complained of colds and fever. But when the 37-year-old’s oxygen levels started to drop, her father and husband decided to take her to a government hospital.

A man adjusts a funeral pyre during a mass cremation of victims who died due to the coronavirus, at a crematorium in New Delhi, India.
A man adjusts a funeral pyre during a mass cremation of victims who died due to the coronavirus at a crematorium in New Delhi.
Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via ZUMA Press

Pramanik said she came out of the ambulance smiling but by the time her husband finished filling the hospital registration form, her daughter was gasping for air.

“Before I could understand anything, she collapsed in the arms of her husband,” Pramanik said, crying.

A patient with COVID-19 receives oxygen inside of a banquet hall temporarily converted into a coronavirus care centre in New Delhi, India.
A patient with COVID-19 receives oxygen inside of a banquet hall temporarily converted into a coronavirus care centre in New Delhi.
PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images

Another citizen, Priyanka Mandal, 30, had been searching for oxygen for her mother since she became sick a week ago.

“Medicines are also not available… I’ve visited five, six big medical stores,” she told Agence-France Presse.

Volunteers sort out a new supply of oxygen cylinders delivered to a Gurdwara for coronavirus patients, in Ghaziabad, India.
Volunteers sort out a new supply of oxygen cylinders delivered to a Gurdwara for coronavirus patients in Ghaziabad, India.
PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images

“No matter how much time it takes, I have to wait here… I only have my mom,” she added.

With Post wires