India, gripped by one of deadliest coronavirus surges seen by any country, will have to be ready for new waves and badly needs more oxygen from other countries, officials said yesterday.
The coronavirus causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
Facing critical shortages of hospital beds and oxygen, the warnings came as India reported 3,780 new pandemic deaths, a new daily high, and 382,000 new cases.
Experts say the peak may not be reached for weeks.
According to the International Red Cross, India is bearing the brunt of a coronavirus crisis badly hitting all of South Asia.
K Vijay Raghavan, the Indian government’s principal scientific adviser, said that the country of 1.3bn had to be ready for more trouble even after beating down this wave which has taken India’s caseload above 20mn infections.
“Phase 3 is inevitable given the high levels of circulating virus. But it is not clear on what timescale this phase 3 will occur. We should prepare for new waves,” Raghavan told a news conference.
With the government facing criticism as patients die in streets outside hospitals because of the bed shortages, consignments of oxygen and equipment have been arriving from the United States, France, Britain, Russia, and other countries in recent days.
And India will need more oxygen from other countries to fight the surge until numbers stabilise, another government official said.
“We did not and do not have enough oxygen,” the top government official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If we could get more oxygen more lives would be saved.”
India is also still pressing the United States and other countries to ease restrictions on exports of raw materials for coronavirus drugs such as remdesivir and tocilizumab, the official added.
India, the world’s biggest generic drugs maker, was a major supplier of remdesivir last year when the pandemic erupted but cut production when its own first wave fell back.
Hospitals across the country were still suffering yesterday while courts have stepped up pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government over its response.
“Admissions suspended indefinitely,” said Devlina Chakravarty, managing director of the Artemis hospital in Gurgaon, near Delhi, in a Twitter statement blaming oxygen supplies.
Hospitals in Kolkata, Bangalore and other major cities also reported serious shortages.
India’s courts have become increasingly vocal critics of the Modi government’s handling of the crisis.
Delhi’s government says it needs 700 tonnes of oxygen a day for its overwhelmed hospitals, but the Supreme Court was told yesterday that it is only getting 585 tonnes.
Fighting a threat to issue contempt proceedings over its refusal to send more oxygen, central government lawyers said the city needs only 415 tonnes.
The court gave the government until morning today to provide a plan to send extra supplies.
A Delhi High Court which made the contempt threat accused government politicians and officials of “living in ivory towers” while the death toll mounts.
The High Court in Allahabad said the deaths of people in Uttar Pradesh state hospitals “is a criminal act and not less than a genocide” by those meant to be ensuring oxygen supplies.
The Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers’ meeting in London was hit by a Covid-19 yesterday when India’s foreign minister and his entire team said they were self-isolating after two delegation members tested positive.
Britain is hosting the three-day meeting – the first such G7 event in two years – which has been heavily billed as a chance to restart face-to-face diplomacy and an opportunity for the West to show a united front against threats from China and Russia.
“Was made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases,” Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Twitter. “As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode. That will be the case with the G7 Meeting today as well.”
India is not a G7 member but was invited by Britain to this week’s summit, along with Australia, South Africa and South Korea.
Iran has meanwhile detected three cases of the Indian Covid-19 variant feared to behind a devastating surge of the virus in India, the health minister said.
“We have identified three confirmed cases among the Indians present,” Saeed Namaki said, according to the ministry’s official website, with the cases found in the central province of Qom.
Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told AFP these were “the first confirmed cases of Indian variant in Iran”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the virus variant, believed to be contributing to the catastrophe in India, has now been found in more than a dozen countries.
But the body has stopped short of saying it is more transmissible, more deadly or able to dodge vaccines.
A case of the Indian variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Kenya, the country’s health ministry said yesterday, a few days after it was also confirmed in neighbouring Uganda.
“This variant has been picked (up) in Kenya and because of global connectivity, it is just a question of time. You cannot be able to put barriers ... to prevent a virus from accessing your territory,” said the ministry’s director-general, Dr Patrick Amoth.
The case was detected among samples taken from Indian travellers who were working in Kisumu, a city in western Kenya, he added.
Egypt has announced a partial shutdown of malls and restaurants and called off festivities for the Eid al-Fitr holidays to curb rising coronavirus cases.
The closure of cafes, malls and restaurants from 9pm will take effect from today until May 21.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli told a televised news conference that Egypt was in a “third wave” of the Covid-19 pandemic, urging citizens to follow health guidelines and register for vaccinations.
Malaysia has imposed movement restrictions in the capital Kuala Lumpur due to a rising number of Covid-19 infections, adding to lockdowns that have been implemented across the country.
The capital will be subjected to some lockdown measures from tomorrow for two weeks, including a ban on social activities, dining indoors, and inter-district travel, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement.
Several parts of the surrounding Selangor state, Malaysia’s richest region, will also go into lockdown later this week.
Vietnam has meanwhile extended the quarantine period for anyone arriving in the country to three weeks, authorities said, following a fresh community outbreak of the coronavirus.
The nation has so far kept case numbers low – recording just over 3,000 cases and 35 deaths – thanks to strict quarantine measures and extensive contact tracing.
But Vietnam reported its first community outbreak in weeks last Thursday, and other clusters have since emerged.
The new quarantine period will be 21 days.
The Philippines will ban the entry of travellers from Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh from May 7 to May 14 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in India, the president’s office announced yesterday.
Travellers coming directly from those countries, or with a history of travel to any of them within the last 14 days, would be barred from entering, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said in a memorandum.
Employees at an oxygen refilling centre in Moradabad, India, refill cylinders for coronavirus patients.