- Visual and data journalism team
- BBC News
The second wave of coronavirus is being devastating in India.
The cases multiply collapsing hospitals and even crematoriums.
There is a general shortage of oxygen and drugs.
The number of cases and deaths continues to rise rapidly, driven by a new variant.
And the country recently hit a record number of cases for the fifth time in a row, as well as its highest daily death toll.
This is a visual guide to what is happening and what the authorities are doing about it.
But it is likely that the actual number of cases and deaths is higher than that reflected in the official figures since many people avoid taking tests or have difficulties accessing them.
There is also many deaths in rural areas that are also not recorded.
Doctors in New Delhi describe how people are dying on the streets outside hospitals as the country struggles to cope.
In total, as of Wednesday the country had confirmed almost 17 million infections and 192,000 deaths.
Virologists say they expect the infection rate to continue to rise for another two to three weeks.
Few beds available
The country is chronically short of space in its intensive care wards, and the families of many patients are forced to drive miles to try to find a bed for their loved one.
In New Delhi, a region of about 20 million people, the hospitals they reported that they were full and they were being forced to turn down new patients.
Some streets outside medical facilities are filled with seriously ill people, as their relatives try to improvise stretchers and oxygen supplies for them while pleading with hospital authorities for a place inside.
“We have been wandering for three days looking for a bed,” a man told Reuters news agency as his wife sat motionless on the sidewalk.
On Monday, the government announced that military medical infrastructure would be available to civilians and that the retired military medical personnel would help in the health facilities that receive the patients of Covid-19.
Hospitals are also suffering from a dire oxygen shortage and desperate need for supplies. Some are forced to put up posters warning of the shortage.
The country now has the highest oxygen demand of all low-income countries, lower-middle and upper-middle, according to PATH, an organization that works with global institutions and companies to address health problems.
The demand has grown between 6% and 8% every day, according to the PATH system that measures oxygen needs (Oxygen Needs Tracker).
Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, who works in a covid-19 ward of the Manipal Hospital in the capital, described people gasping for air in the street like “fish out of water.”
“They don’t get oxygen and they die on the roads,” he said.
Typically, sanitary facilities consume about 15% of India’s oxygen supply, leaving the rest for industrial use.
But in the middle of the second wave, nearly 90% of the country’s oxygen supply (7,500 metric tons a day) is being diverted to medical uses, according to Rajesh Bhushan, a senior health official.
To try to get supplies where they are needed, the government has launched “oxygen trains” that transport tanker trucks to where there is demand.
The Indian Air Force is also airlifting oxygen from military bases.
The government said it will release oxygen supplies from armed forces reserves and approved plans to increase supplies at more than 500 oxygen generating plants.
Cars converted into medical rooms
In an attempt to address the bed shortage, Indian authorities are turning to train cars, which have been converted into isolation rooms.
Approximately 4,000 Indian Railways cars, retrofitted in March 2020, have been put back into service to help treat Covid-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms.
The facilities, which were not needed last year when strict confinement measures led to a decrease in casesThey have provided 64,000 more temporary beds, Gopal Agarwal, spokesman for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, told the BBC.
The trains, which can be reached at stations in cities and towns where they are needed, have beds for patients, bathrooms, sockets for medical equipment and oxygen supplies.
Indian Railways already has experience in managing hospitals on trains.
The Lifeline Express, launched in 1991, travels across the country providing diagnostic, medical and surgical treatment services to patients across the country.
Sports halls and stadiums
Sports halls and stadiums have also been converted into makeshift treatment centers to ease pressure from hospitals.
Spaces such as the Koramangala indoor stadium in Bangalore, the Indira Gandhi athletic stadium in Guwahati, and the Radha Soami Satsang Beas campus in Delhi were turned into confinement centers.
Some of the beds that are used are made of cardboard.
During the increase in cases that occurred last year, the Delhi campus belonging to the Radha Soami Satsang Beas organization was transformed into the Sardar Patel Service Center for covid patients that has 10,000 beds, 1,000 of which have oxygen.
Before closing in February this year, it treated more than 11,000 people.
This time it is expected that the center, which has the size of 20 soccer fieldsStart by opening with about 2,500 beds, to increase to 5,000.
Aryan Paper, which manufactures cardboard bed bases that are used in the emergency, explains that they are made of high-strength corrugated cardboard.
They are particularly useful in today’s crisis because they are cheap, recyclable, can be flat packed for easy transport, and assemble in five minutes.
Massive funeral pyres
Many people are forced to turn to makeshift facilities for mass burials and cremations because many funeral services in India are overwhelmed.
At least one Delhi facility has resorted to building pyres in its parking lot to cope with the body count.
Other sites are carrying out mass cremations and, according to various reports, staff work day and night in various cities.
Jitender Singh Shunty, head of a non-profit medical service that runs a crematorium in northeast Delhi, is using a parking garage attached to the main facility to deal with the high body count.
“It’s hard to see,” he said.
Several places have also reported that they are staying no wood for pyres.
Jayant Malhotra, who has been helping at a crematorium in Delhi, told the BBC that he had never seen such a terrifying situation.
“I can’t believe we are in the capital of India. There is no oxygen for people and they are dying like animals “.
By Lucy Rodgers, Dominic Bailey, Ana Lucia González, Shadab Nazmi and Becky Dale.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.