People scrambled for life-saving oxygen supplies across India on Friday and patients lay dying outside hospitals as the capital recorded the equivalent of one death from COVID-19 every five minutes.
For the second day running, the country’s overnight infection total was higher than ever recorded anywhere in the world since the pandemic began last year, at 332 730.
India’s second wave has hit with such ferocity that hospitals are running out of oxygen, beds and anti-viral drugs.
Many patients have been turned away because there was no space for them, doctors in Delhi said.
Ambulance sirens sounded throughout the day in the deserted streets of the capital, one of India’s worst hit cities, where a lockdown is in place to try and stem the transmission of the virus.
Mass cremations have been taking place as the crematoriums have run out of space and families have had to wait for two days to cremate the dead.
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At Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in the north east of the city, critical patients gasping for air arrived in ambulances.
One man among half a dozen people waiting for hours on trolleys outside on Friday died before being admitted.
“The staff are doing their best but there is not enough oxygen,” Tushar Maurya, whose mother is being treated at the hospital, told Reuters. “If you are not in a serious condition please don’t come. It isn’t safe.”
The India Today television channel showed angry relatives outside a hospital in Ahmedabad, the largest city in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
“People are dying in front of hospitals while they wait for a bed to become available,” one man said. Another young man, who was not identified, said “Is this why we voted for this government? When we need it the most, we find ourselves all alone.
Health experts say India became complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10 000 a day and seemed to be under control, and lifted restrictions to allow big gatherings.
Modi himself has faced rare criticism for allowing political rallies and a Hindu religious and a Hindu religious festival, in which millions take a ritual bath in the Ganges River.