A leading virologist says India is still two weeks away from its second-wave Covid-19 peak, with modelling showing the country could reach up to 500,000 infections a day.
Ashoka University's director of biosciences Shahid Jameel told UK newspaper The Sunday Times the "best-case scenario" for India amidst its second wave was to "learn some lessons to prevent a third wave".
A rampant second wave has taken hold in India, a nation of about 1.3 billion people, with one coronavirus death almost every four minutes happening in Delhi.
Breaking a world record for a third consecutive day, the country's Health Ministry said on Saturday case numbers increased by 346,786, bringing total infections to 16.6 million.
To put that into context, there have been 29,658 infections in Australia since the pandemic began.
Coronavirus deaths in India rose by 2,624, to a total of 189,544, according to Saturday's figures.
Dr Jameel said the current wave would peak in a fortnight, with "some virus models" suggesting India was facing an avalanche of up to 500,000 cases a day.
He said health workers had told him of how they were battling to prevent more deaths in hospital wards.
"You will find two, sometimes three patients in one bed in some government hospitals," Dr Jameel said.
"I’ve never ever seen anything like this."
'Double mutant' Covid strain could be responsible for latest outbreak
Overwhelmed hospitals in India begged for oxygen supplies on Saturday as the country's coronavirus infections soared in what the Delhi high court called a "tsunami".
Health experts said India became complacent in the winter, when new cases were running at about 10,000 a day and seemed to be under control.
India's new surge in cases is believed to have been triggered by a new variant, B.1.617, which has been dubbed the 'double mutant', Bloomberg reported.
The variant is named as such for its two key mutations which have also appeared in two other strains of Covid-19, according to NPR.
With the healthcare system nearing collapse, India is facing an oxygen shortage crisis with Covid-19 patients in hospital suffocating.
The government ramped up its efforts to get medical oxygen to hospitals using special Oxygen Express trains, air force planes and trucks to transport tankers, and took measures to exempt critical oxygen supplies from customs taxes.
But the crisis in the country of nearly 1.4 billion people was only deepening as overburdened hospitals shut admissions and ran out of beds and oxygen supplies.
“Every hospital is running out (of oxygen). We are running out,” Dr Sudhanshu Bankata, executive director of Batra Hospital, a leading hospital in the capital, told New Delhi Television channel.
Distressing footage aired on the BBC shows the reality facing doctors on the front lines of the pandemic in India.
One hospital staffer is seen climbing on to stretcher desperately performing CPR on a critical Covid-19 patient. Unfortunately he could not saved.
At this particular coronavirus hospital, there was only an hour left of oxygen.
Deepti Gurdasani, Senior Lecturer of Epidemiology at the Queen Mary University of London, described what was going on in India as "absolutely tragic and horrific" and could have been prevented.
"We've been seeing rapid growth in the pandemic, which hit some parts of India (e.g. Maharashtra, W. Bengal, Delhi) earlier than others - but cases are now growing exponentially in every part of India. India has had >300K *reported* cases and >2000 *reported* deaths in 24 hrs," she wrote in a series of tweets, questioning why the government didn't act to prevent the crisis.
"Deaths and cases are being substantially underreported. The positivity rate in Delhi is 36 per cent and testing isn't available for many. It's estimated that deaths are being underreported by ~10x, with level of underreporting varying from place to place.
"What's worse is that growth hasn't stopped- cases haven't plateaued off yet. The stage of growth is different in different regions depending on restrictions, but cases are still growing across most of India. Ineffective, or short lockdowns have been instituted in some places."
Authorities are facing mounting criticism over what doctors said was its negligence in the face of a foreseeable public health disaster.
with Reuters, AP
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