Boris Johnson last night pledged to support India in its battle against the devastating Covid surge which has brought the country to its knees.
The UK is ‘looking at what we can do to help’ after India recorded a record-breaking 332,000 new cases in a single day.
Hospitals across the nation are buckling under the strain of a ferocious second wave, with some running out of oxygen and turning away patients due to overcrowding.
Another 2,263 deaths were reported in India yesterday, although limited testing means this is likely to significantly underestimate the total.
Mr Johnson said: ‘We’re looking at what we can do to help and support the people of India, possibly with ventilators. Thanks to the ventilator challenge, the huge efforts of British manufacturers, we’re better able now to deliver ventilators to other countries. But also possibly with therapeutics, dexamethasone, other things, we’ll look at what we can do to help.’
The UK is ‘looking at what we can do to help’ after India recorded a record-breaking 332,000 new cases in a single day. Pictured, relatives of covid patients wait in queues to refill oxygen cylinders in Delhi
Yesterday India recorded 332,730 new infections – the highest one-day tally of any country since the beginning of the pandemic. It was the second day running the country of around 1.4 billion people broke the record.
India is now recording one in three of all worldwide Covid-19 cases. Ministers declared victory against the virus two months ago when there were around 11,000 cases a day.
The surge has been fuelled by a ‘double mutant’ variant, thought to be more infectious.
Health workers carry a patient after a fire in Vijay Vallabh COVID-19 hospital at Virar, near Mumbai, India
So far 132 cases of the Indian variant have been detected in Britain, around half of which are in London. The variant contains two mutations in the virus’s spike protein, which could help it spread more easily and evade vaccines. India was added to the UK’s travel ‘red list’ yesterday, prompting a last-minute scramble for flights to Heathrow.
The Prime Minister has also cancelled a trip to New Delhi this weekend where he had hoped to secure millions of vaccine doses.
Yesterday Government scientists said border measures are not enough to prevent the spread of new variants, but they can delay it. One senior source said there were likely to be ‘many more’ cases of the Indian variant in the UK than the 132 detected so far.
Burning pyres of Covid-19 deceased persons at a crematorium in India
They added: ‘It does look like it’s more transmissible but we don’t know if it is more transmissible than the Kent variant and we don’t have any data on vaccine efficacy.’
Desperate families have been begging for oxygen or medical help on social media, and crowds have gathered outside hospitals, with some dying on stretchers as they wait.
On Wednesday, 22 patients died at a hospital in Maharashtra when their oxygen supply ran out after a leak in the tank. Yesterday 13 Covid patients died when a fire broke out at a Mumbai hospital.
Health workers wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) move the body of a person who died of coronavirus at a mortuary, in New Delhi
Dr Atul Gogia, who works at a hospital in New Delhi, said: ‘We do have oxygen but it’s now on a day-to-day basis. We got some oxygen last night, so we have some oxygen now.’
He told Radio 4: ‘We do not have enough oxygen points, patients are coming in with their own oxygen, others without, we want to help them but there are not enough beds or oxygen points, and not enough oxygen to supply them.’
Max Healthcare, which runs hospitals in northern and western India, appealed on Twitter yesterday for oxygen. ‘We regret to inform that we are suspending any new patient admissions in all our hospitals in Delhi until oxygen supplies stabilise,’ it said.
The government has started shuttling trains containing tanks of oxygen across the country to hotspots. Crematoriums are also overwhelmed, with one in Delhi resorting to building pyres, on which bodies are burnt, in its car park.