Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday blamed the Narendra Modi government for the alarming shortage of oxygen in the country amid a rapidly worsening coronavirus outbreak.
“Corona can cause a fall in oxygen level but it’s oxygen shortage and lack of ICU beds which is causing many deaths,” he wrote on Twitter. “GOI [Government of India], this is on you.”
On Friday morning, the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi announced that 25 coronavirus patients had died in the preceding 24 hours amid a last-minute scramble for oxygen. In a statement released around 8 am, the director of the hospital warned that they had oxygen for only two more hours and that 60 more patients were at risk. Though the oxygen was replenished soon after, officials have warned that it is not enough.
In another tweet hours later, the Congress leader questioned the central government’s decision to go ahead with the Central Vista project amid the pandemic crisis.
“Covid crisis, no tests, no vaccine, no oxygen, no ICU [Intensive Care Units]...Priorities!” Gandhi tweeted, along with a screenshot of a report on the Centre inviting bids for three secretariat buildings under the Central Vista project.
The Rs 20,000-crore Central Vista project seeks to redevelop government buildings situated on the three-km stretch in Delhi that runs from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate. A new Parliament house is at the heart of the project.
Coronavirus infections in India are expanding on a scale beyond any previously measured anywhere in the world in more than a year of the pandemic.
On Friday, the country reported a record-breaking 3,32,730 new cases, taking the total number of infections since the outbreak began in January 2020 to 1,62,63,695. This is also the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far. India first hit the grim milestone of more than 3 lakh cases on Thursday, when it logged 3.14 lakh infections in a day.
For the first time, 2,263 deaths were recorded on Friday. The toll rose to 1,86,920.
The country’s healthcare system has collapsed under the strain of the surge, and several states are experiencing crippling shortages of oxygen and other critical equipment. As per an analysis by Scroll.in, India’s daily requirement of medical oxygen is currently more than double the amount that has been exempted from industrial use – 4,600 metric tonnes. And the country may run out of stocks in a few weeks even if all industrial oxygen is diverted to medical use.
In the Capital city of Delhi, private hospitals are knocking on the doors of the High Court, desperately pleading for oxygen supplies as stocks run dangerously low. Several facilities have warned they only had supplies worth a few hours left.
On Thursday, the High Court had directed the Centre to ensure that oxygen supplies and its transportation remained undisrupted. It asked the government to provide adequate security to the transporting vehicles and create special corridors.
Hours before that, the Centre had ordered that no restrictions should be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also asked state governments to “come down heavily” on those who are hoarding oxygen used to treat coronavirus patients as several states faced shortages.