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India COVID crisis: Aid arrives amid record case surge

India's health care system has been overwhelmed by a deadly coronavirus infection wave. International support has begun arriving in the country even as COVID-19 infections and deaths increase.

The first batch of US emergency medical aid arrived in India's capital, New Delhi, on Friday.

The supplies of oxygen, hospital equipment and coronavirus tests were delivered as India posted another record number of cases.

The US Embassy in India tweeted: "the United States stands with India as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic together," along with pictures of the shipment.

India's COVID crisis in numbers

India's Health Ministry reported 386,452 new cases on Friday, while deaths from COVID-19 jumped by 3,498 over the last 24 hours.

More than 200,000 have now died from the virus in India, putting it fourth in the world behind the US, Brazil and Mexico.

But many experts suspect the real number of deaths could be much higher.

Infographic showing cases in India state by state

Dr. Lancelot Pinto, an epidemiologist from Mumbai, told DW that the Indian variants of the virus were "more transmissible." 

"Earlier we would see one individual or two in the family get infected. This time around, most of us are witnessing entire families and their workspaces get infected," he said.

"Coronaviruses are going to keep mutating with time, and I think the most efficient way to prevent that is mass and rapid vaccination," he added.

How is India's health care system coping?

Hospital bed shortages for coronavirus patients have spread beyond the virus hot spots of New Delhi and Maharashtra.

Following a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, India's army chief M.M. Naravane said coronavirus patients can go to their nearest army hospital.

Troops are also assisting with imported oxygen tankers and vehicles where specialized skills are required, a government statement said.

The Indian government is set to open vaccinations to all adults from Saturday in a bid to stem the spread of the virus. Around 600 million more people will be eligible.

But some states have warned they do not have sufficient stocks. Financial hub Mumbai has already said it would halt inoculations from Friday to Sunday due to lack of vaccines.

What is the emotional toll of the crisis?

The surge in deaths has overwhelmed crematoriums. Many are continuing to face shortages of wood for funeral pyres.

Some people in the western city of Surat have resorted to burning wood that is not entirely dry and crop waste, pouring petrol on the pyre, reported news agency AFP.

"Seeing people die, having to emotionally support families and feeling like you couldn't do enough," Inayat Singh Kakar, a volunteer working with the People's Health Movement India, told DW.

"I think it is very, very distressing at the moment. And it is leading to a sense of helplessness and fear about the current situation."

Where is aid arriving from?

More than 40 countries have committed to sending vital medical aid, particularly oxygen supplies.

Japan became the latest to offer help, announcing Friday it would dispatch 300 oxygen concentrators and 300 ventilators to India.

Crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from the UK arrived at an airport in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Germany's emergency medical shipment will be airlifted to India in the coming days, the country announced earlier this week.

Romania and Ireland also sent supplies late on Thursday.

Coronavirus in India: Out of control?

kmm/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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