India's Covid-19 death toll passes 200,000 but true scale likely to be far higher

28 April 2021, 06:05 | Updated: 28 April 2021, 13:15

Funeral pyres can be seen of the patients who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus
Funeral pyres can be seen of the patients who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The official Covid-19 death toll in India has passed 200,000 but there are concerns authorities are largely under-reporting the true scale of the number of deaths.

It is thought that the 200,000 figure only counts those who have died in hospital.

In recent days there have been scenes of people dying in the streets in India, with severely ill people being forced to wait for hours outside hospitals, only to be admitted for treatment when a bed frees up in the hospital when a patient dies.

The official daily death toll has been around 2,000 per day for several days and the country is seeing a surge in infections.

READ MORE: Vital medical supplies from UK reach India but doctors brace for worse to come

Mass cremation of COVID-19 victims at old Seemapuri crematorium ground in New Delhi
Mass cremation of COVID-19 victims at old Seemapuri crematorium ground in New Delhi. Picture: PA

India recorded more than 320,000 new cases of coronavirus infection on Tuesday as the country's health system started receiving much-needed support from overseas.

Yesterday the country reached a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic, but the decline likely reflects lower weekend testing rather than reduced spread of the virus.

The health ministry also reported another 2,771 deaths in 24 hours, with roughly 115 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour.

Rows of beds are placed inside an indoor sports stadium turned COVID-19 isolation center in Srinagar
Rows of beds are placed inside an indoor sports stadium turned COVID-19 isolation center in Srinagar. Picture: PA

Foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi tweeted photos on Tuesday of the first shipment of medical aid India received from Britain. It included 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators.

Other nations including the US, Germany, Israel, France and Pakistan have also promised medical aid to India.

The countries have said they will supply oxygen, diagnostic tests, treatments, ventilators and protective gear to help India at a time of crisis which World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday called "beyond heartbreaking".

The surge, spurred by new variants of coronavirus, has undermined the Indian government's premature claims of victory over the pandemic.

The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is facing a chronic shortage of space on its intensive care wards.

Hospitals are experiencing oxygen shortages and many people are being forced to turn to makeshift facilities for mass burials and cremations as the country's funeral services have become overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, in a bid to tackle the shortage of beds, Indian authorities are turning to train carriages, which have been converted into isolation wards.

India has also started airlifting oxygen tankers to states in need. Special trains with oxygen supplies are also running in the country.

The White House was moving to share raw materials for the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine with India by diverting some US orders to the vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India.

White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told The Associated Press the Biden administration was working to satisfy other "key requests" from the Indian government, namely for personal protective equipment, tests, therapeutics and supplies of oxygen and respiratory assistance devices.

Epidemiologists from America's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention were also expected to soon travel to India to assist with its virus response.