Sun | Jun 20, 2021

India hits another grim coronavirus record as oxygen demand jumps

Published:Thursday | May 6, 2021 | 9:53 AM
Family members of COVID-19 victims leave as their funeral pyres burn at an open crematorium set up at a granite quarry on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Infections in India hit another grim daily record on Thursday as demand for medical oxygen jumped sevenfold and the government denied reports that it was slow in distributing life-saving supplies from abroad.

The number of new confirmed cases breached 400,000 for the second time since the devastating surge began last month.

The 412,262 new cases pushed India's official tally to more than 21 million.

The Health Ministry also reported 3,980 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 230,168.

Experts believe both figures are an undercount.

Eleven COVID-19 patients died when the pressure in an oxygen line dropped suddenly in a government medical college hospital in Chengalpet in southern India on Wednesday night, possibly because of a faulty valve, The Times of India newspaper reported.

Hospital authorities said they repaired the pipeline last week, but the consumption of oxygen had doubled since then, the newspaper said.

Demand for hospital oxygen has increased sevenfold since last month, a government official said, as India scrambles to set up large oxygen plants and transport oxygen.

India created a sea bridge on Tuesday to ferry oxygen tankers from Bahrain and Kuwait in the Persian Gulf, officials said.

Most hospitals in India aren't equipped with independent plants that generate oxygen directly for patients.

As a result, hospitals typically rely on liquid oxygen, which can be stored in cylinders and transported in tankers.

But amid the surge, supplies in hard-hit places such as New Delhi are running critically short.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said India has enough liquid oxygen but it's facing capacity constraints in moving it.

Most oxygen is produced in the eastern parts of India while the demand has risen in northern and western parts.

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