Wednesday January 19, 2022

How India turned into corona abode?

April 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD: When coronavirus first erupted in India last year, Prime Minister Modi imposed a harsh, nationwide lockdown for months to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. But the government relaxed restrictions in the face of widespread financial hardship and Modi has refrained from ordering a new lockdown.

But a pandemic doesn’t just end. Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah as well as opposition politicians this month took part in mass election rallies in five populous states with tens of thousands of supporters who were not wearing masks or social distancing, international media reported.

In addition, religious leaders and hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus descended on the banks of the Ganges River in the northern Indian city of Haridwar last month for a major Kumbh festival. Experts have described these as super-spreader events.

Last week, the Indian Supreme Court told Modi’s government to produce a national plan for the supply of oxygen and essential drugs for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

The government said Saturday it would exempt vaccines, oxygen and other oxygen-related equipment from customs duty for three months, in a bid to boost availability.

In addition, Modi’s emergency assistance fund, dubbed PM CARES, in January allocated some $27 million for setting up 162 oxygen generation plants inside public health facilities in the country. Three months on, only 33 have been created, according to the federal Health Ministry.

But the Defence Ministry is set to fly 23 mobile oxygen generating plants within a week from Germany to be deployed at army-run hospitals catering to COVID patients. Each plant will be able to produce 2,400 liters of oxygen per hour, a government statement said Friday.

That’s coming too late for hospitals in the capital and hard-hit states such as Maharashtra, which have turned to social media to plead with authorities to replenish their oxygen supplies. Early Saturday, Bankata’s Batra hospital reported severe shortage of oxygen for its 190 admitted patients.

Fortis Healthcare, a chain of hospitals across India, said Saturday that one of its hospitals in New Delhi “is running out of oxygen” and was suspending admissions. In a tweet, it said it had been waiting for fresh supplies since the morning.

As the oxygen scarcity deepened, local officials in several states disrupted movement of tankers and diverted supplies to their areas.

On Friday, local media reported that a tanker-truck carrying oxygen supplies in Delhi’s neighboring state of Haryana went missing. Days before, it was reported, a minister in Haryana blamed Delhi authorities for looting an oxygen tanker when it was crossing their territory.

“Unfortunately, many such incidents have occurred and have dire effect on hospitals in need of oxygen supplies,” Saket Tiku, president of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association, was quoted as saying.

India is a major vaccine producer, but even after halting large exports of vaccines in March to divert them to domestic use, there are still questions of whether manufactures can produce them fast enough to bring down infections in time in the world’s second most populous country.

India said this week it would soon expand its vaccination program from people aged 45 to include all adults, some 900 million people — well more than the entire population of the entire European Union and United States combined.