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India sets new Covid world record with over 350,000 cases in single-day spike

NEW DEHLI, India: On Monday, India reported 352,991 new cases and 2,812 virus-related deaths, marking the world’s highest daily caseload for the fifth straight day.

Most hospitals in Delhi and many other cities in India have completely run out of beds, forcing people to find ways to get treatment for sick patients at home. But even that is proving to be a difficult task as prices of oxygen cylinders, concentrators and essential medicines have skyrocketed on the black market.

Anshu Priya spent most of her Sunday looking for an oxygen cylinder as her father-in-law’s condition continued to deteriorate. She couldn’t find any hospital bed in Delhi or in its suburb of Noida. Her search for an oxygen cylinder in shops was also futile, forcing her to turn to the black market.

She paid the hefty amount of 50,000 rupees ($670; £480) to procure a cylinder from the black market. It costs 6,000 rupees at normal times.

Her mother-in-law is also struggling to breathe and Anshu is now worried about her. She says she may not be able to afford another cylinder on the black market.

The second wave, which began in March, has escalated rapidly, with India recording more than a million new cases in just three days. For the past two weeks, medical facilities have been running out of oxygen and ICU beds, with patients, left to die at home and outside hospitals waiting for care.

The situation is particularly dire in the capital New Delhi, which is under lockdown until May 3. The city is facing severe oxygen shortages. Delhi does not produce its oxygen and relies on resources supplied by the central government, according to Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Several Delhi hospitals tweeted SOS messages over the weekend appealing for oxygen supplies. On Saturday, at least 20 critically ill patients died after oxygen supply was delayed at one Delhi hospital.

In a tweet Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his administration will set up 551 oxygen generation plants “in every district to ensure adequate oxygen availability.”

The central government has come under fierce criticism within the country for its handling of the outbreak, which has seen overwhelmed hospitals and residents post pleas on social media for more supplies from state and federal officials.

With heart-wrenching images from India and climbing death tolls making global headlines, countries around the world have stepped up to offer critical aid.

The Biden administration and the US Defense Department will deploy supplies and support to India, including sending ventilators, PPE, rapid diagnostic test kits, and therapeutics, according to the White House and senior officials.

“The United States also is pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis,” according to a readout of a call between the two countries’ national security advisers.

Earlier this year, the US placed a temporary ban on exporting raw materials critical for vaccine production. This controversial decision meant vaccine makers around the world, including the Serum Institute of India (SII), faced a shortage of materials to make Covid-19 vaccines and were forced to look elsewhere.

The ban has faced increasing criticism, with some characterizing it as resource hoarding as India’s second wave accelerated — especially given the US’ improving situation and effective vaccination program.