India recorded the world’s highest daily tally of coronavirus cases for the second day in a row on Friday, while daily deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by a record.
With 332,730 new cases, India’s total caseload has now passed 16 million.
Deaths in the past 24 hours also jumped to a record 2,263, the health ministry said, while officials across northern and western India, including the capital, New Delhi, warned most hospitals were full and running out of oxygen.
The spike in cases came as a fire in a hospital in a suburb of Mumbai treating COVID-19 patients killed 13 people on Friday, the latest accident to hit a facility in India crowded with people infected with the coronavirus.
“The fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Virar is tragic”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter, approving payouts for the victims’ relatives.
On Wednesday, 22 COVID-19 patients died at a public hospital in Maharashtra state when their oxygen supply ran out after a leak in the tank. At least nine coronavirus patients died in a hospital fire in Mumbai on March 26.
Daily infections hit 332,730 on Friday, up from 314,835 the previous day when India set a new record, surpassing one set by the United States in January of 297,430 new cases. The US tally has since fallen.
Delhi reported more than 26,000 new cases and 306 deaths, or about one fatality every five minutes, the fastest since the pandemic began.
Medical oxygen and beds have become scarce, with major hospitals putting up notices saying they have no room for any more patients and police being deployed to secure oxygen supplies.
Max Healthcare, which runs a network of hospitals in northern and western India posted an appeal on Twitter on Friday for emergency supplies of oxygen at its facility in Delhi.
“We regret to inform you that we are suspending any new patient admissions in all our hospitals in Delhi till oxygen supplies stabilize,” the company said.
Similar desperate calls from hospitals and ordinary people have been posted on social media for days this week across the country.
Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan in the United States, said it was now as if there was no social safety net for Indians.
“Everyone is fighting for their own survival and trying to protect their loved ones. This is hard to watch,” he said.