NEW DELHI – With shortness of breath, two men wearing oxygen masks share a bed in a government hospital in India’s capital, New Delhi, victims of the country’s growing COVID-19 crisis.
From reports of less than 10,000 new daily cases earlier this year, daily infections exceeded 200,000 on Thursday, according to official data, the highest anywhere in the world.
At Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP), one of India’s largest exclusive COVID facilities with more than 1,500 beds, a stream of ambulances transported patients to the crowded casualty on Thursday.
Some also arrived in buses and three-wheeled auto rickshaws.
The youngest patient was a newborn baby.
“We are definitely overwhelmed. We are already working at full capacity, ”said the hospital’s medical director, Suresh Kumar.
Of the initial 54 beds, the hospital now has more than 300 for critically ill patients with COVID-19. Even that is not enough.
Unrelated patients share beds, while the bodies of the newly deceased stay outside the infirmary before being taken to the morgue.
“Today we have 158 admissions in Lok Nayak alone,” said Kumar. Almost all were serious cases.
After imposing one of the strictest blockages in the world for almost three months last year, the Indian government relaxed almost all restrictions in early 2021, although many regions have already introduced localized restrictions.
Kumar, from LNJP, said that new rapid-spread variants that escape testing increase weight, as well as human behavior when the country is reopened.
“People are not following the COVID guidelines,” he said. “They are just careless.”
Outside the hospital morgue, tearful relatives gathered in the hot sun to await the release of the bodies of their loved ones.
Prashant Mehra, 40, said he had to pay a broker to get preferential treatment before getting his 90-year-old grandfather to be admitted to the hospital. The hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its comments.
Mehra said the effort made little difference in the end.
“He died after six or seven hours,” he said. “We already asked for our money back.”