India tops 200,000 COVID deaths as virus surge breaks health system

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India marked a grim milestone Wednesday with 200,000 people lost to COVID-19 — as a relentless surge of new cases overwhelms hospitals, sends families searching for oxygen supplies, and has seen parking lots in the capital New Delhi converted into crematoriums.

The health ministry reported a single-day record of 3,293 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the world’s second-most populous country’s total fatalities to 201,187.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, also reported 362,757 new infections, a new global record, which raised the overall total past 17.9 million.

The previous high of 350,000 on Monday had capped a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day spikes in any country during the pandemic.

The country is the fourth to cross 200,000 deaths, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico – but experts believe the infections and fatalities in India are severe undercounts.

For the past week, more than 2,000 Indians have died each day.

Hospitalizations and deaths have reached record highs, patients are suffocating because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out and desperate families are sending SOS messages on social media in efforts to locate oxygen cylinders.

Crematoriums have spilled over into parking lots, lighting up night skies in some cities, including the capital.

Many countries have offered assistance, including the US, which has promised to send personal protective equipment, tests and oxygen supplies.

The US also will send raw materials for vaccines, strengthening India’s capacity to manufacture more AstraZeneca doses.

Radha Gobindo Pramanik is among the many citizens who lost a family member to the virus. His daughter, Navanita Paramanik Rajput, died on April 18.

At first, Rajput complained of colds and fever. But when the 37-year-old’s oxygen levels started to drop, her father and husband decided to take her to a government hospital.

Pramanik said she came out of the ambulance smiling but by the time her husband finished filling the hospital registration form, her daughter was gasping for air.

“Before I could understand anything, she collapsed in the arms of her husband,” Pramanik said, crying.

Another citizen, Priyanka Mandal, 30, had been searching for oxygen for her mother since she became sick a week ago.

“Medicines are also not available… I’ve visited five, six big medical stores,” she told Agence-France Presse.

“No matter how much time it takes, I have to wait here… I only have my mom,” she added.

With Post wires

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