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’Dire need of beds, oxygen’: India’s capital under siege from COVID-19

NEW DELHI: India’s capital New Delhi recorded 25,500 coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, with about one in three people tested returning a positive result, its chief minister said, urging the federal government to provide more hospital beds to tackle the crisis.

Less than 100 critical care beds were available in the city of more than 20 million people, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday, as social media was flooded with people complaining about lack of beds, oxygen cylinders and drugs.

“The bigger worry is that in last 24 hours positivity rate has increased to around 30% from 24% … The cases are rising very rapidly. The beds are filling fast,” Kejriwal told a news briefing.

In a separate statement, the city government said it had informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s federal administration about “the dire need of beds and oxygen” and beds were now being set up in schools.

New Delhi, which has imposed a weekend curfew, is among the worst-hit cities in India, where a second major wave of coronavirus infections is straining health infrastructure.

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Nationwide, India reported 261,500 new cases on Sunday, taking the total number of cases to nearly 14.8 million, second only to the United States, which has reported more than 31 million infections. The country’s deaths from COVID-19 rose by a record 1,501 to reach a total of 177,150.

As cases rise across India, criticism is mounting over how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has handled the health crisis, as religious festivals and election rallies attended by thousands continue.

India’s government relaxed almost all lockdown curbs of last year by the beginning of 2021, although some regions including New Delhi and the state of Maharashtra, home to financial hub Mumbai, have introduced localised restrictions.

While Mumbai remains under curfew on all days as per state guidelines, New Delhi has allowed cinema halls to operate at 30% capacity and people to move freely during weekdays.

“There is no option but to lockdown Delhi for 1-2 weeks,” said Dr. Ambrish Mithal, a top doctor of endocrinology and diabetes at hospital operator Max Healthcare, adding that weekend curfews “won’t do”.

“(The) situation is unmanageable at present,” he said on Twitter.



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