India: COVID-19 cases cross 5m amid medical oxygen shortage

India to have COVID-19 vaccine by early 2021 – Health minister
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India on Wednesday reported a spike of 90,123 new COVID-19 cases, taking its tally to more than 5 million as hospitals across the country reported a shortage of medical oxygen.

India’s total count of COVID-19 cases stands at 5,020,359, according to the latest health ministry bulletin.

The death toll rose to 82,066 after 1,290 deaths were recorded on Tuesday, the highest daily toll so far.

India is the second worst-hit country by the new coronavirus after the U.S.

It is third, after the U.S. and Brazil, in COVID-19 fatalities.

As the country with a population of 1.3 billion eased a lockdown to restart economic activity, there has been an explosion in coronavirus cases causing a shortage of medical oxygen across several Indian states, local media reported.

Covid-19 affects the respiratory system of patients. According to doctors around 15 per cent of all COVID-19 patients needed oxygen.

Major states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat hit the hardest by the pandemic – as well as Rajasthan, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.

The federal government had directed that they should ensure availability of enough oxygen in healthcare facilities.

Since last week media reports have said patients have died at hospitals in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra states due to shortage of oxygen, which authorities have denied.

Amit Thadani, Medical Director of Niramaya Hospitals in Kharghad on the outskirts of Mumbai in Maharashtra, said the facility was facing an acute shortage of oxygen.

“We need at least 90 cylinders daily and we are getting only 15,” said Thadani, whose hospital has 50 beds for COVID-19 patients.

Thadani said the flow of oxygen was being regulated to last longer and a few critical patients had been shifted to other hospitals.

The demand for medical oxygen and its price had doubled in Karnataka since the pandemic began, and doctors have pushed for a cap on oxygen prices to ensure the treatment remains viable, broadcaster NDTV reported.

The oxygen shortages are being seen even though companies have quadrupled production to about 3,000 tons a day from 750 tons a day in the last six months, Saket Tiku, President of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association, said.

A federal health ministry spokesman said there was no shortage of oxygen for critical Covid-19 patients.

The problem was at the facility level and state governments had been told to encourage all hospitals to carry out efficient inventory management and replenish stocks in time, Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary of the Ministry of Health said at a briefing.

The government has also expedited licences for medical oxygen manufacturers and asked local governments to ease transport restrictions.

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