On Monday, 800 oxygen concentrators were airlifted from China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to Delhi and 10,000 more in a week, the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka tweeted on Monday. It also wrote that “China is keeping in touch with India regarding urgent needs”.
Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said on Monday at a daily news conference that China has paid close attention to the pandemic situation in India and extended its sincere sympathies about the recent surge. Wang also said China has made clear that it stands ready to help India to combat the new round of the pandemic, and both sides are in communication in this regard.
In the highest single day spike, India reported on Monday that there had been 352,991 new COVID-19 cases recorded over the previous 24 hours. With a population of 1.3 billion, India has a tally of 17.31 million infections and 195,123 deaths, according to the country’s Health Ministry.
Hospitals were running out of oxygen and supplies, and crematoriums were unable to handle all the cases, sparking fears of a major humanitarian disaster.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had referred to the situation as a toofan, or storm, in a radio address on Sunday. He said the second wave has “shaken the country”, adding that fighting COVID-19 is the top priority.
Several cities have ordered curfews, while police have been deployed to enforce social distancing and mask wearing.
Barry O’Farrell, Australia’s High Commissioner to India, told Sydney-based radio station 2GB that the situation playing out in India represented “our worst fears” from last year’s health warnings about the dangers of the coronavirus. He said the second wave was striking like a “tsunami”.
Experts said a combination of factors was responsible: India’s complacency after the first wave, the mass gatherings of people at political rallies and religious events and the rise of mutant strains.
Modi is facing a growing backlash as the crisis spirals, and his decision to address tens of thousands of people at state election rallies is under fire. He is also facing blame for letting Hindu devotees congregate for the Kumbh Mela festival.
Zhang Wenhong, a Chinese infectious disease specialist, warned of a larger outbreak in the near future in India. He wrote in a blog that it is too late, even if India carries out mass vaccinations immediately.
Zhang said that to get through the crisis, India must take extremely rigid public health measures and require people to comply with them.