India’s capital New Delhi recorded 25,500 coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, with about one in three people tested returning a positive result, its chief minister said, urging the federal government to urgently provide more hospital beds to tackle the crisis.
Arvind Kejriwal told a news conference the high number of cases in the capital was a concern.
“The bigger worry is that in last 24 hours positivity rate has increased to around 30% from 24%,” Kejriwal said. “The cases are rising very rapidly. The beds are filling fast.”
Kejriwal said intensive care unit beds are in short supply, with less than 100 left for coronavirus patients.
The grim situation can only be tackled if the federal government, the city government and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi work together, he said.
Nationwide, India reported 261,500 new cases on Sunday, taking the total number of cases to nearly 14.8 million, second only to the United States, which has reported more than 31 million infections.
The country’s deaths from COVID-19 rose by a record 1,501 to reach a total of 177,150, the data showed.
Hit by the spread of more contagious variants of the disease, India is grappling with a severe shortage of oxygen supplies and critical medicines such as the anti-viral drug Remdesivir, as well as beds.
Concerned by the surge in cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asked authorities to pull out all the stops to ramp up production of COVID-19 vaccines.
Modi also reviewed his administration’s overall preparedness and stressed the need to ensure the availability of hospital beds and the supplies of oxygen and ventilators. He also asked his team to work closely with local governments, especially the 12 states ravaged by the latest wave in cases.
But opposition parties, including the Congress party, criticised Modi for addressing large election rallies to help his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win the state assembly election in the eastern state of West Bengal.
Addressing a large gathering of his supporters in West Bengal on Saturday, Modi said: “I can see a sea of masses. I haven’t seen a rally like this.”
The Aam Aadmi (Common Man) Party, which is in power in the capital, New Delhi, mocked Modi’s political rallies by posting pictures on social media of funeral pyres at overburdened crematoriums of the city.
“The delight of the PM (prime minister) at the sight of a large crowd at his election meeting in Asansol (West Bengal) in Covid times could have come only from a person who is completely insensitive,” Yashwant Sinha, a former cabinet minister who broke away from the BJP, said on Twitter. “I deplore his remarks.”
Faced with shortages of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders, people used Twitter to seek help and post pictures of overwhelmed hospitals.
Adding to the crisis, at least five coronavirus patients died in a hospital fire late on Saturday in Raipur, the capital of the central state of Chhattisgarh.
Surviving patients were evacuated to other coronavirus facilities, said Tarkeshwar Patel, additional superintendent of police of Raipur.