India’s COVID-19 cases surpassed the 5 million mark on Wednesday, with hospitals scrambling for oxygen that they need to treat thousands of critical patients.
The health ministry reported 90,123 new infections on Wednesday, taking the total caseload to 5.02 million.
The death toll from COVID-19 is now at 82,066, the ministry said, with 1,290 fatalities recorded in the previous 24 hours.
India has the world’s fastest growing novel coronavirus epidemic and added its last million infections in just 12 days.
It is only the second country in the world to have more than 5 million cases, after the United States.
At least 6% of India’s nearly 1 million active cases need oxygen support, health ministry official Rajesh Bhushan told reporters.
In the big states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, that are also some of the worst-affected by the virus, demand for oxygen has more than tripled, doctors and government officials said, prompting urgent calls for help.
Desperate patients have been calling me through the night but I don’t know when I will get stock,” Rishikhesh Patil, an oxygen supplier in the western city of Nashik, told Reuters.
Supplies were adequate but state governments should monitor usage and flag shortages, he said.
“The problem happens when at a facility level, if there is no inventory management. Every state should ensure this,” Bhushan said.
In the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, the total requirement of oxygen cylinders stood at 5,000 cylinders compared with 1,000 cylinders in normal times, a government official said.
The worst-affected state of Maharashtra has decided to reduce supply to neighbouring states to meet its growing demand, a state government official said.
Vehicles carrying oxygen will get right of way and can use sirens to ensure they reach hospitals faster.