A fire in a COVID-19 hospital ward in western India killed 18 patients as the country grappled with the world’s worst outbreak stepped up a vaccination campaign for all adults, despite claims from some states that they do not have enough vaccines.
India set another daily global record on Saturday, with 401,993 new coronavirus cases, bringing the country’s total to more than 19.1 million. According to the health ministry, 3,523 people died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 211,853. Both numbers, according to experts, are an undercount.
According to police, the fire started in a COVID-19 ward on the ground floor and was extinguished within an hour. The trigger was being looked into.
It began around midnight in the intensive care ward of the Patel Welfare Hospital, a COVID-19 facility in Bharuch, 185 kilometers (115 miles) north of the state’s main commercial center, Ahmedabad.
“Sixteen patients and two staff members have died in the fire. Twelve of them died due to fire and smoke,” said RV Chudasama, a superintendent of police in Bharuch. “Preliminary investigation shows the fire was caused because of a short circuit.”
However, according to Dushyant Patel, a state government official, the fire was started by a leak from an oxygen cylinder in the intensive care unit.
Local television outlets aired video of a hospital ward that had been entirely demolished.
“There was a lot of chaos because of the scale of the fire … Hospital staff rushed my family members out from the ward and we used our car to take them to another hospital,” said Parth Gandhi, whose two relatives, both COVID-19 patients, escaped the disaster.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his sadness over the deaths caused by a fire at a hospital in Bharuch.
Thirty-one other patients were saved at the Welfare Hospital by hospital staff and firefighters, and their conditions were stable, according to police officer BM Parmar.
On April 23, a fire in an intensive care unit in the Virar region of Mumbai’s outskirts killed 13 COVID-19 patients.
In the face of an unprecedented rise in cases that has clogged hospitals and crematoriums, Modi’s government dubbed the pandemic a “once-in-a-century crisis.”
On Friday, Modi convened a cabinet meeting to discuss measures to save the country’s collapsing health system, including increasing hospital beds, resolving problems with vaccine manufacturing, storing and transporting oxygen, and addressing the scarcity of critical medicines.
The Indian capital of New Delhi will remain closed for another week due to an increase in COVID incidents, the city’s chief minister announced on Saturday.
“Lockdown in Delhi is being extended by one week,” Arvind Kejriwal said on Twitter.
The current shutdown was set to end on Monday, but the number of cases in the 20-million-person city is still on the rise.
Meanwhile, desperate COVID patients continued to arrive at hospitals on Saturday, amid a lack of beds.
Vijay Gupta, 62, was turned away from Holy Family Hospital, a non-profit private facility in the southeast of India’s capital, because all 385 of its 385 beds were complete. His family and friends were debating what to do next while waiting outside the hospital.
“We have been roaming around since 6am looking for a bed,” said Gupta’s friend Rajkumar Khandelwal. “Where shall we go?”
The government kicked its sluggish vaccine programme into high gear on Saturday, announcing that all adults – those aged 18 and over – were getting their vaccines.
Since January, nearly 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only 1.5 percent have received both, despite the fact that India is one of the world’s largest vaccine producers.
Some states have stated that they do not have enough doses to meet everyone’s needs. And the ongoing campaign to immunize people over the age of 45 is stuttering.
The state of Maharashtra has confirmed that it will be unable to begin immunization of young people on Saturday. The health minister of Delhi state, Satyender Jain, said earlier this week that the capital territory does not have enough doses to vaccinate people aged 18 to 44.