Hospitals overrun as India records world's highest daily Covid cases

28 April 2021, 21:46 | Updated: 28 April 2021, 21:53

India has recorded the world's highest number of daily Covid cases since the pandemic began
India has recorded the world's highest number of daily Covid cases since the pandemic began. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

India has hit the tragic milestone of 200,000 coronavirus deaths and a global high of nearly 380,000 daily cases as pressure mounts on hospitals and crematoriums.

The UK Government has sent more vital oxygen supplies to the south Asian country, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Wednesday branding the situation there "harrowing".

Surplus oxygen generation units the size of shipping containers will be shipped from Northern Ireland to help the nation tackle its worsening Covid-19 epidemic, the Foreign Office said.

The individual units are capable of producing 500 litres of oxygen per minute, which is enough to be used by 50 people at once.

Britain had already sent 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators to India, with the first shipment arriving in Delhi on Tuesday.

The nation's Covid death toll now stands at more than 200,000, with reports of hospitals overrun and severe shortages of oxygen supplies. However, the real number of fatalities is thought to be much higher with many not being officially recorded.

Read more: India's Covid death toll passes 200,000 but true scale likely far higher

Read more: Medical supplies from UK reach India but doctors brace for worse to come

There were another 379,459 new cases reported on Wednesday, the highest of any country since the pandemic began, and 3,647 new deaths.

Speaking during a Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said he had spoken with his Indian counterpart to organise a UK support package.

The health secretary said on Wednesday: "We've all seen the harrowing pictures of what is happening in India.

"I think it pains each one of us who is seeing those scenes, not least because the bonds between our countries are so strong - they are ties of family and of friendship.

"I've been in constant contact with my Indian counterpart and we've worked across the weekend to put together our first package of support of ventilators and oxygen concentrators."

Read more: UK and US lead global effort to help India as Covid infections surge

Watch: 'We need oxygen': Cremator in India calls on Boris Johnson for support

He said the worsening situation in India emphasised the pandemic was not yet over and how important it was for people to remain "vigilant" in the UK.

Mr Hancock added: "Everyone across this whole United Kingdom stands side-by-side with the people of India in these troubled times, because in this battle against coronavirus we are all on the same side - this fight is a global fight.

"And when other nations face their hour of need, as we've faced our hour of need here at home, we'll be there.

"The situation in India is a stark reminder that this isn't over yet.

"It shows how important it is that we are vigilant here at home."

When asked if a new order of millions of Pfizer jabs could be given to struggling countries like India, Mr Hancock said: "The truth is that the 60 million Pfizer jabs, they have not been manufactured, this is a forward order so it is not that they are there now in our PHE [Pubic Health England] freezers ready to roll out.

"But the situation in India is that they obviously have a vaccination programme which is largely driven by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being produced in India.

"We obviously work very closely with them to ensure they have access to that vaccine at cost."

Meanwhile, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which brings together a number of UK organisations, has extended its coronavirus appeal to include India.

Organisations, including the Indian Red Cross, ActionAid, Oxfam India and Save the Children, will help support the country's health system by providing PPE, disinfection kits, medical supplies and ambulances, and setting up isolation facilities.

Member charities will also create temporary Covid hospitals and care centres, as well as provide ventilators and oxygen concentrators to the Indian government.

Save the Children has also warned that millions of children in India risk being pushed into poverty and hunger due to the surge in Covid cases.

The charity said children might be forced to drop out of school and find work to supplement lost family incomes and those out of school run a higher risk of falling victim to forms of abuse such as child marriage, child labour and exploitation.

Sudarshan Suchi, chief executive of Save the Children in India, said: "As the crisis in India continues to spiral out of control, its impact on children is growing ever more serious.

"The surge in Covid-19 infections is forcing strict lockdown measures that have left many families without a source of income, pulling millions of children below the poverty line, and the poorest into even deeper poverty."