26 April 2021
India is struggling to deal with shortages and many deaths as a possible new variant of the coronavirus keeps new infections at record levels.
On social media and on television, there are pictures of people asking for oxygen outside hospitals. People also are mourning in the street for loved ones who died while waiting for treatment.
One woman explained the death of her younger brother, age 50. He was turned away by two hospitals and died waiting to be seen at another. He could not get the oxygen he needed to keep breathing.
She blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government for the crisis.
"He has lit funeral pyres in every house," she cried in a video by The Caravan magazine.
On Sunday, or the fourth straight day, India set a record for the world's highest number of new coronavirus infections. The increase hurts the government's claim of victory over the pandemic.
On Monday, India ordered its military to help control the growing number of new coronavirus infections, as countries including Britain, Germany and the United States promised to send urgent medical aid.
Around 350,000 new infections brought India's total to more than 16.9 million, behind only the United States. Recently, the Health Ministry reported another 2,767 deaths in a 24-hour period.
The number of deaths reported could be lower than the real number. That is because not all cases are confirmed. Some deaths are recorded as being from other causes.
The growing crisis is easy to see in India's burial places and crematoriums.
Burial places in the capital, New Delhi, are running out of space. Funeral pyres light up the night in some cities.
In the central city of Bhopal, some crematoriums are burning 50 funeral pyres each day. Yet there are still hours-long waits.
At the city's Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 bodies on Saturday. However, the government said the total number of coronavirus deaths is just 10 in the city of 1.8 million.
"The virus is swallowing our city's people like a monster," said Mamtesh Sharma, an official at the crematorium.
The large number of bodies has forced the crematorium to stop individual death ceremonies.
"We are just burning bodies as they arrive," said Sharma. "It is as if we are in the middle of a war."
Mohammad Shameem is an official at New Delhi's largest Muslim cemetery. About 1,000 people have been buried during the pandemic.
"I fear we will run out of space very soon," he said.
It is at the full hospitals, however, where the virus can be easily seen. People have died waiting in line to see a doctor. Some do not make it to the line. They die on the nearby road.
Health officials are trying to increase patient care and find more oxygen.
India's Solicitor General Tushar Mehta spoke before the Delhi High Court Saturday and said "nobody in the country was left without oxygen." However, television and social media video appear to show a different situation.
In January, India's prime minister declared victory over the coronavirus. He called India the "world's pharmacy" because of its production of vaccines. Yet, the country failed to prepare for a possible surge, health experts say.
Dr. Krutika Kuppalli is an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He said the government should have used the past year to create new systems to defeat a possible surge of virus cases.
"Most importantly, they should have looked at what was going on in other parts of the world and understood that it was a matter of time before they would be in a similar situation," Kuppalli said.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
variant –n. something that is different in some way from others of the same kind
pyre – n. a pile of wood for burning a dead body
crematorium – n. a place where the bodies of dead people are cremated (burned to ash)
monster – n. a strange or horrible imaginary thing
surge – n. a sudden increase to an unusually high level
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