NEW DELHI — India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday as a grim coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country sends more and more sick people into a fragile health-care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.
The dire situation has Canada’s government looking into flights from India.
On Wednesday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Ottawa has generally opted for measures that are not country-specific, such as COVID-19 testing and government-mandated quarantine. However, she added India could be a special case — as was the U.K., from which flights to Canada were banned for a period of time — due to a “variant of interest” there that may be fuelling the explosion in infections.
That variant, known as B.1.617, has been identified in B.C. The Ministry of Health says 39 cases were identified early April.
Ontario’s government is also “pleading” with Ottawa to ban travel from India and other hot-spot countries.
A variant of #COVID19 first identified in #India is now in BC. 39 case of B.1.617 were detected in the province earlier this month. It comes as the COVID situation worsens in India w/ hospitals running out of beds + oxygen. The variant may be to blame for spike. More on @NEWS1130
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) April 22, 2021
According to the federal government, there have been 35 flights from India with at least one case of COVID-19 that have arrived in Canada in the last two weeks.
The 314,000 infections added in the past 24 hours in India push the country’s total past 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began. It’s second to the United States.
Fatalities rose by 2,104 in the past 24 hours, raising India’s overall death toll to 184,657, the Health Ministry said.
A large number of hospitals are reporting acute shortages of beds and medicine, and are running on dangerously low levels of oxygen.
The New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals to save people’s lives. “Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency,” the judges said, responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital seeking its intervention.
The government is rushing oxygen tankers to replenish supplies to hospitals.
The Health Ministry said that of the country’s total production of 7,500 metric tonnes of oxygen per day, 6,600 metric tonnes were being allocated for medical use.
It also said that 75 railroad coaches in the Indian capital have been turned into hospitals providing an additional beds 1,200 for COVID-19 patients.
India has nearly 1.4 billion people and only about around 130 million have received a COVID-19 vaccine.