India's Oxygen Demand Seven Times Higher Than in April as New COVID Cases Top 412K

Oxygen demand in India is seven times higher than in April as the country still struggles to combat COVID-19 cases with a total of 412,262 new infections on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

India is desperately trying to establish large oxygen plants and transport oxygen as most hospitals in the country do not have independent oxygen plants, causing them to rely on liquid oxygen that needs to be transported in cylinders carried by tankers.

On Wednesday, pressure in an oxygen line dropped at the Chengalpet Government Medical College hospital in Tamil Nadu that resulted in the deaths of 11 COVID-19 patients, the Times of India reported. Authorities at the hospital said last week that they had repaired the oxygen pipelines but oxygen consumption has doubled since they worked on it.

About 3,980 new deaths were reported by the Health Ministry, adding to the total of 230,168 that experts believe is actually higher, according to the Associated Press.

"Some global media reports have raised concerns regarding distribution of global aid being sent to India in its fight against #COVID19," India's Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday. "However, the aid is being effectively & promptly allocated and dispatched to States and UTs by Govt of India."

#IndiaFightsCorona

Some global media reports have raised concerns regarding distribution of global aid being sent to India in its fight against #COVID19.

However, the aid is being effectively & promptly allocated and dispatched to States and UTs by Govt of India.@PMOIndia

— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) May 6, 2021
Oxygen Supplies in India
Covid-19 coronavirus patients breathe with the help of oxygen provided by a Gurdwara, a place of worship for Sikhs, under a tent installed along the roadside in Ghaziabad on May 6, 2021. Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Infections in India hit another grim daily record on Thursday. The government denied reports that it was slow in distributing life-saving supplies from abroad.

The number of new confirmed cases breached 400,000 for the second time since the devastating surge began last month. The 412,262 new cases pushed India's official tally to more than 21 million.

India created a sea bridge on Tuesday to ferry oxygen tankers from Bahrain and Kuwait in the Persian Gulf, officials said.

Amid the surge, supplies in hard-hit places such as New Delhi are running critically short.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said India has enough liquid oxygen but it's facing capacity constraints in moving it. Most oxygen is produced in the eastern parts of India while the demand has risen in northern and western parts.

K. Vijay Raghvan, a principal scientific adviser to the government, said this phase of the pandemic was "a very critical time for the country."

The United States, Britain, Germany and several other nations are rushing therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen, along with materials needed to boost domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines to ease pressure on the fragile health infrastructure.

India's vaccine production is expected to get a boost with the United States supporting a waiver of intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine components from the U.S. that have arrived in India will enable the manufacturing of 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, said Daniel B. Smith, the senior diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

Last month, Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, appealed to President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on U.S. export of raw materials, which he said was affecting its production of COVID-19 shots.

The government meanwhile described as "totally misleading" Indian media reports that it took seven days to come up with a procedure for distributing urgent medical supplies that started arriving on April 25.

The statement said a streamlined and systematic mechanism for allocation of the supplies received by India has been put in place for effective distribution. The Indian Red Cross Society is involved in distributing supplies from abroad, it said.

COVID-19 Crisis in India
Family members of COVID-19 victims leave as their funeral pyres burn at an open crematorium set up at a granite quarry on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo