Stockpiling oxygen and vital medicines at homes is “creating panic” and causing shortages in hospitals, according to senior Indian doctors, raising fears of a shortage of critically ill patients amid the worsening Covid crisis.
It comes as India recorded 352,991 new cases and 2,812 new deaths, both breaking all previous world records for the pandemic. The past week has seen a cumulative 89% increase in Covid-19 deaths in India and a total of 2.2 million new cases, the highest increase in seven days experienced by any country.
The total number of infections in the country has exceeded 17 million.
“The hoarding of injections like remdesivir and oxygen in homes is creating panic and this hoarding is causing a shortage of these drugs,” said Dr. Randeep Guleria, director of the Institute of Medical Sciences of the countries, in a statement issued by the health ministry on Sunday evening.
Guleria said most people shouldn’t need to be treated with oxygen and keeping it in private homes could reduce availability for critically ill patients who need it. He stressed that Remdesivir was not a “magic bullet”.
“Covid-19 is (a) mild infection and 85-90% of people will only suffer from cold, fever, sore throat and body ache. Only symptomatic treatment at home is enough to overcome these infections and there is no need for oxygen or Remdesivir, ”he said.
Oxygen demand has increased more than 20% nationwide in recent days. In the capital Delhi, most hospitals have been reeling from acute oxygen shortages, sometimes reaching 30 minutes after the supply runs out and putting hundreds of lives at risk.
On Saturday, 20 patients died at the Jaipur Golden Hospital in Delhi during a severe oxygen crisis. On Sunday, four patients at Gurgaon Kathuria Hospital and four patients at Virat Hospital in Rewari, both southwest of Delhi, died when the facility ran out of oxygen.
Amid the days when hospitals issued warnings about their low oxygen supplies, some relatives of patients resorted to seeking oxygen themselves.
One man told NDTV that he had stood in a long line to fill a 10-liter oxygen cylinder for his 65-year-old father who was at the Pentamed hospital in Delhi. Another relative said that his brother had been in the hospital for 10 days and that the family was supplied with oxygen.
A thriving black market for oxygen and Remdesivir has also emerged, with cylinders and injections selling at exorbitant prices. Over the weekend, three men were arrested for trying to sell Remdesivir injections for Rs 40,000 (£ 384) each.
The blockade in Delhi has been extended until May 3. Cases continued to rise across the country and on Sunday the southern city of Bengaluru became the first city after Delhi to register more than 20,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day.
The United States led international pledges of support to India on Sunday as the country grappled with the worsening crisis. Joe Biden said the United States was “determined to help India in its time of need” by making supplies of vaccine production materials, therapies, tests, ventilators and protective equipment readily available.
“The United States has identified specific raw material sources that are urgently required for Indian manufacture of Covishield vaccine,” said a White House statement, referring to the Indian version of the AstraZeneca injection.
But he did not mention whether the United States would ship millions of surplus doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to India, after America’s top pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci said Sunday it would be considered.
The UK announced that it had sent ventilators and oxygen to Delhi and France and Germany was prepared to send much-needed oxygen to countries in the coming days.
Pakistan, a traditional enemy of India, offered medical equipment and supplies after Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted prayers for a “speedy recovery.”
In the Indian capital, more than a quarter of people who were tested for the virus on Sunday tested positive.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country had been hit by a “storm” and called on people to get vaccinated and not “get carried away by any rumors about vaccines.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism