New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet top central government officials at 8 pm to discuss the deadly second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the national vaccination drive.
This will be the Prime Minister’s second Covid-related meet in two days, and third since last week.
On Friday he met senior officials of several ministries and was briefed on the government’s efforts to meet rising demand for medical oxygen to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. Last week he held a video-conference with the chief ministers of some of the worst-affected states.
Today’s meeting will be held amid a frightening spike in daily cases – over two lakh this morning for the third straight day, over 1.5 lakh per day since April 11 and over a lakh per day since April 7.
The surge in cases has left the country’s already-battered healthcare infrastructure on the verge of collapse, with hospitals overflowing, doctors disillusioned and fatigued, and critical medical equipment – like ventilators and oxygen cylinders in perilously short supply.
Several states, including Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, have red-flagged low oxygen reserves.
Oxygen is desperately needed at hospitals and COVID-19 facilities to help people with advanced COVID-19 symptoms, who are often unable to breathe on their own and could die if not aided.
In others the lack of hospital beds has forced patients to share those available or, as in the case of a facility in Maharashtra’s Pune, led to makeshift wards being set up outside under metal sheets.
In Gujarat and other states ambulance services have been stretched to breaking point, with dozens lining up at hospitals carrying people who either tested positive or are suspected of carrying the virus.
In national capital Delhi – which reported nearly 20,000 new cases on Friday – graveyards and crematoriums are struggling to find space for the long line of the bodies of those killed by the virus.
Similarly disquieting scenes have been witnessed in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow, where discrepancies between the official death count and the number of bodies at crematoriums has raised eyebrows.
The rapid spread of the second wave comes as states report shortage of vaccine doses. Over 12 crore have been administered so far, but over the past weeks states have underlined depleting stocks.
Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan and Jharkhand are some of those to raise this issue.
This week the centre – which earlier stressed that there are enough doses available – approved Russian-made Sputnik V for use in the country. This is the third to be cleared – after Covaxin and Covishield – with many others, including that by US pharma giant Pfizer, expected to follow.
India’s vaccination drive began January 16. Currently only healthcare and frontline workers, and those over the age of 45 are eligible but chief ministers, opposition leaders and experts have urge the government to open it for all those who want it – which the government has ruled out so far.
This morning India reported over two lakh new Covid cases – 2.34 lakh, to be precise – and 1,341 deaths linked to the virus. The country’s active caseload has skyrocketed to 16.8 lakh – the highest it has ever been – after dropping as low as 2.34 lakh exactly one month ago.