BENGALURU: India on Monday (Apr 26) set a global record for a rise in daily coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day, while deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by an all-time high over the last 24 hours.

With 352,991 new cases, India’s total caseload has crossed 17 million. Deaths rose by a record 2,812 to reach a total of 195,123, with overcrowded hospitals in Delhi and elsewhere turning away patients after running out of supplies of medical oxygen and beds.

“Currently the hospital is in beg-and-borrow mode and it is an extreme crisis situation,” said a spokesman of the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the capital.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all citizens to get vaccinated and exercise caution, while hospitals and doctors have put out urgent notices saying they were unable to cope with the rush of patients.

People were arranging stretchers and oxygen cylinders outside hospitals as they desperately pleaded for authorities to take patients in, Reuters photographers said.

“Every day, it the same situation, we are left with two hours of oxygen, we only get assurances from the authorities,” one doctor said on television.

In some of the worst-hit cities, including the capital, bodies were being burnt in makeshift facilities offering mass services.

Television channel NDTV broadcast images of three health workers in the eastern state of Bihar pulling a body along the ground on its way to cremation, as stretchers ran short.

“If you’ve never been to a cremation, the smell of death never leaves you,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at MIT in the United States, said on Twitter.

“My heart breaks for all my friends and family in Delhi and India going through this hell.”

India has seen a devastating new wave of Covid infections in the past week, with bodies piling up outside hospitals inundated with cases AFP/Gagan NAYAR

Politicians, especially Modi, have faced criticism for holding rallies attended by thousands of people, packed close together in stadiums and grounds, despite a brutal second wave of infections.

Several cities have ordered curfews, while police have been deployed to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing.

Still, about 8.6 million voters were expected to cast ballots on Monday in the eastern state of West Bengal, in the penultimate part of an eight-phase election that will wrap up this week.

Voting for local elections in other parts of India included the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, which has been reporting an average of 30,000 infections a day.

Singapore, the United States and Germany have sent vaccine components and medical equipment, including much-needed oxygen-related supplies, to help India tackle the crisis. 

The European Commission has also said it aims to send oxygen and medicines to India after receiving a request from Delhi. 

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