A woman has shared the harrowing last words of her father as he died from coronavirus in India.
The country has been setting global record daily case numbers as devastating stories and images emerge from the epicentre and its surrounds. New Delhi is now reporting one death every four minutes.
Today is the eight-straight day of record figures and experts say that’s not likely to stop, as medical supplies dwindle and delayed safety measures have caused strife for containing the spread.
Figures are expected to continue to peak for the next few weeks as cases spiral.
Almost 400,000 new cases were confirmed yesterday, more than 30,000 above the 7-day average. At least 3600 people died in the last 24 hours, taking India’s total COVID-19 cases pass 18 million.
“India is still on an upward trajectory where the rate of infection is still moving at very fast and very horrifying rates at the moment,” ABC’s South Asia correspondent James Oaten said from New Delhi.
RELATED: Loophole putting Australia in danger
Barkha Dutt’s father was among the dead yesterday, with the Washington Post columnist telling CNN he died after the oxygen tank in the ambulance that was rushing him to hospital ran out.
“My father’s last words to me were: ‘I’m choking, please give me treatment’,” she said.
“I have nobody left, I feel alone.”
Ms Dutt said that despite being an “upper-middle class Indian who can pay for the best private medical treatment”, the shortage of supplies knew no bounds.
“By the time we reached hospital, he had to be taken into ICU. He never made it back.”
She said when the family went to cremate his body, “there was no space” and a there was a “physical fight that erupted between families”.
The spiking body count has overwhelmed crematoriums and graveyards, and caused a shortage of wood for funeral pyres.
Ms Dutt said she met families at cremation grounds where “bodies were lying on the floor”.
Horror prediction, gravediggers work
Experts suggest current data predicts deaths in India could peak at up to 14,000 a day.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle has predicted that the death toll will continue to rise, peaking at almost 14,000 on May 16.
Director Dr Christopher Murray warned “there’s a lot of bad times ahead” for India as infections are close to their peak next week.
The Indian government has been criticised for its lacklustre handling of the spread of the virus, with political rallies and religious festivals allowed across the country.
It’s a blow for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who just months ago claimed the country had defeated the virus and concerns grow of the government’s level of transparency over official figures.
Dr Murray told CNN the appearance of new COVID-19 variants have increased transmission and meant that people could be reinfected with a new strain.
Meanwhile, gravediggers are “working around the clock”, doing 24-hour shifts in Mumbai to bury victims while hundreds more were being cremated in parks and car parks in New Delhi that have been converted to crematoriums.
A number of flights carrying medical supplies worth almost $130 million are en route to India after more than 40 countries, including Australia, committed to sending vital medical aid to the country, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said overnight.
|But many countries have come forward on their own to offer us assistance,” Mr Shringla said.
The supplies include almost 550 oxygen-generating plants, more than 4000 oxygen concentrators, 10,000 oxygen cylinders as well as 17 cryogenic tankers.
Hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 treatment drugs remdesivir, favipiravir and tocilizumab, as well as raw materials to produce vaccines and remdesivir, were also being sent.
“It is an unprecedented situation … we are sourcing many of these items from many countries,” Mr Shringla said.
Oxygen supplies are among the most sought after supplies amid a severe shortage, but the equipment, sent from the United States, Europe and Singapore to name a few, is “really more a trickle than a flood compared to India’s huge population,” Mr Oaten said.
“This is a collapsed health care system and people just can’t get into hospitals,” he said.
Despite this, the Indian government will open vaccinations to all adults from Saturday. It had previously limited shots to the over-45s and certain other groups.
Several states have warned, however, that they do not have sufficient vaccine stocks and the expanded rollout is threatened by administrative bickering, confusion over prices and technical glitches on the government’s digital vaccine platform.
“The queues here are so colossal,” Jayanti Vasant told AFP as he waited at a busy vaccination centre in Bangalore.
“The people are just fighting amongst themselves.”
— with AFP