Corona Virus Covid 19

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Australians may be fined or jailed for entering the country from India

Latika Bourke


By Latika Bourke

Updated April 30, 2021 — 7.20pmfirst published at 6.57pm



The federal government is considering fining and jailing anyone who tries to enter Australia from India amid that country’s COVID-19 crisis.
Australia’s borders have been closed since March last year and, this week, the government clamped down even further, banning all flights, including repatriation dashes, from India.

A crematorium in New Delhi on Thursday where multiple funeral pyres were burning for victims of COVID-19.


A crematorium in New Delhi on Thursday where multiple funeral pyres were burning for victims of COVID-19.CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES
There are at least 36,000 Australians stuck abroad who are trying to get home but cannot because of the strict quarantine limits on how many people can enter the country per week.
At least 9000 of those are in India and more than 600 are classified as vulnerable.

Nine News reported on Friday night that the government was considering a further step by making it a crime, punishable by a maximum $66,000 fine or five years’ jail, if they travel home from India.
Nine reported that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt would invoke powers under the Biosecurity Act - the same legislation used to close the borders - as soon as Saturday.


Loophole for Australians returning from India closed



The Federal Government is examining tough new measures to prevent Australians trying to evade a ban on returning from India.
A government source confirmed the plan is in the works.
Earlier, the national cabinet issued a statement saying it “expressed solidarity with the Indian community both within Australia and overseas”.

India is in the grip of a second wave of the pandemic leading to hospitals being overrun and makeshift crematoriums burning non-stop.
India’s death toll climbed by another 3498 over the last 24-hour period to 208,330, but experts say the true figures are much higher.
Mr Hunt’s office was contacted for comment.
If imposed, it would be the first time it has been made a crime for an Australian to enter their own country.
It comes after Australian cricketers Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson flew home from India via Qatar on a flight that departed just before the border between Australia and India was sealed at 7pm on Wednesday.


The ABC reported that the cricketers landed in Australia from Doha on Thursday, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating on Tuesday that indirect flights from India through Doha, Dubai, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur had already “been paused by the respective governments.”
The Prime Minister said the loophole and been closed and foreshadowed more extreme measures earlier on Friday morning in an interview on 2GB radio.
“It was [a loophole] that became apparent to us on Wednesday and it was closed off at about seven-o’clock Wednesday evening,” he said.
“That flight that those cricketers were on managed to get away just before that. We had information on Monday that that wasn’t possible.

“We’ll be taking some more action there regarding transport of transit passengers today and I’ll be speaking to the premiers about that and when we meet at national cabinet,” the Prime Minister said when asked about the loophole.
The opposition’s home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said Mr Morrison owed an explanation to the Indian community.
“If this is true, Mr Morrison needs to stand up and explain it to the 9000 Australians he’s left stranded in India, and not hide behind his Health Minister,” she told the Herald and The Age.
“We should follow the health advice, but if Scott Morrison had kept his promise and got all the stranded Australians home by Christmas, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Constitutional law expert George Williams said the move was “very likely to be constitutional”.
“The only impediment would be if the High Court discovered some form of constitutional protection for returning citizens, but that would be a long shot,” Professor Williams said.



Australians may be fined or jailed for entering the country from India
 
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Experts warn Australia needs to reset hotel quarantine while India flights are paused
By Rachel Clun and Katina Curtis

Updated April 27, 2021 — 6.09pmfirst published at 2.56pm



Experts warn Australia must use the next three weeks without flights from India to reset the fragmented national hotel quarantine program and acknowledge that airborne transmission between rooms is a risk.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia would pause all direct flights from India until May 15 as that country grapples with a wave of COVID-19 cases. Australia will also urgently send millions of pieces of personal protective equipment and 500 non-invasive ventilators to India, as well as 100 oxygen concentrators, tanks and consumables.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne announce a pause on direct flights from India to Australia.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne announce a pause on direct flights from India to Australia.CREDIT:RHETT WYMAN

The decision to temporarily stop flights was based on health advice prompted by an increase in the number of coronavirus cases among people in hotel quarantine and the high proportion of those originating in India. In the past week, the number of quarantine cases jumped from 90 to 143.
In the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, where people on repatriation flights are quarantining, 95 per cent of cases are among arrivals from India. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates India will hit a peak of 13,300 deaths a day in mid-May, when Australia is due to re-evaluate the flight ban.

“It’s important to take this pause to enable those quarantine facilities, particularly in the Northern Territory, to be able to work through the system and return to lower levels [of positive cases],” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday afternoon.
Public Health Association of Australia president, Adjunct Professor Tarun Weeramanthri, said it was crucial during the pause to reset the country’s quarantine system.

“Currently the arrangements are fragmented, in terms of each state and territory running it with different standards and practices,” he said.
One key improvement would be explicitly acknowledging the risk of airborne transmission in quarantine hotels.
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“The biggest risk is airborne transmission underpinned by poor ventilation, so we must look at that risk and mitigate that risk as best we can,” Professor Weeramanthri said.

Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said while COVID-19 was mostly spread through droplets, it was clear that in some situations – including in Western Australia’s recent quarantine outbreak – aerosol spread also occurred.
“The AMA has repeatedly called for urgent national action on airborne transmission in hotel quarantine,” Dr Khorshid said. “The pause in flights from India gives us the chance to revisit the settings and have a cohesive national approach.”
The Infection Control Expert Group, which advises the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, must make a decision on the risk of airborne transmission in hotels before arrivals from India resume, Professor Weeramanthri said.

But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the idea the country’s top medical experts were denying that aerosol transmission occurred was “ridiculous and false”.
“Aerosols do play an important role in transmission,” Professor Kelly told a parliamentary COVID-19 committee on Tuesday evening. “But, I would say that [is] unusual. That is not the usual way that the virus is spread.”



Australia on brink of banning India flights
Australia on brink of banning India flights




Australia banning all flights from COVID-ravaged India will be a hot topic at today's National Cabinet meeting, the Home Affairs minister has confirmed.
Over the past 24 hours, India recorded 323,144 new cases and a further 2771 fatalities, with overrun hospitals turning away patients due to a shortage of beds and oxygen supplies.
As the epidemic in India grows, transiting flights from that country through Doha, Singapore, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur have been paused by those countries. Eight repatriation flights Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade planned to run during May have been postponed.

When direct flights to Australia resume, all passengers will be required to return both a negative COVID nasal swab and a negative rapid antigen test before departure.


There are more than 9000 Australians in India who are registered with DFAT as wanting to return home, with 650 classed as vulnerable. That number is expected to increase in the coming days.
Mr Morrison said the government recognised the significant difficulties stranded Australians faced and would seek to resume repatriation flights as soon as possible.
“These are Australians and Australian residents who need our help and we intend to make sure we are able to restore flights ... and that those repatriating flights focus on the most vulnerable,” he said.

“We don’t think the answer is to forsake those Australians in India and just shut them off, as some seem to suggest.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said pausing flights from India meant thousands of citizens and permanent residents were now “trapped” and quarantine must be improved.
“The Morrison government has failed to provide a national quarantine system. If hotels aren’t suitable, they need to build an alternative,” he said on Twitter.



Experts warn Australia needs to reset hotel quarantine while India flights are paused
 

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McGowan takes hardline approach on Australians stranded in India
Hamish Hastie

By Hamish Hastie
April 27, 2021 — 3.14pm

Premier Mark McGowan offered no solace to Australian residents stranded in India after again questioning why they travelled to the COVID-19 hotspot in the first place.
Mr McGowan has reiterated his support for a ban on flights from the country, which was confirmed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison following a National Security Committee meeting on Tuesday.


A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 is consoled by another during cremation in Jammu, India, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Delhi has been cremating so many bodies of coronavirus victims that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks, as a second record surge has brought India's tattered healthcare system to its knees. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)



A relative of a person who died of COVID-19 is consoled by another during cremation in Jammu, India, Sunday, April 25, 2021. Delhi has been cremating so many bodies of coronavirus victims that authorities are getting requests to start cutting down trees in city parks, as a second record surge has brought India's tattered healthcare system to its knees. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)CREDIT:AP
There are currently 9000 Australians in India, with 650 considered vulnerable. India’s health system is under extreme pressure and oxygen supplies are being depleted as official case numbers rise by more than 350,000 per day, though actual figures are estimated to be much higher.
Mr McGowan has been scathing of anyone who has recently travelled to India, including Australian cricketers competing in the Indian Premier League and the man who triggered the Anzac Day long weekend lockdown after spending four months in India to attend his own wedding.

When asked whether he supported mercy flights to reduce the risk of Australians contracting the virus in a country with a buckling health system, Mr McGowan said it was not a problem of his government’s making.

“I support a suspension because it’s putting at risk this country, that’s a hard thing to say and Australians or permanent residents or others who want to come into Australia from India, it will be difficult for them,” he said.
“But I just repeat many of the cases we’re getting were people who went recently, I don’t know why they did that, they didn’t have to do that but they did.
“It’s very sad, very difficult to say because people in India no doubt they’re not very happy about being there and it’s obviously a risk for them, it’s also a big risk for our hotel quarantine system.”


Mr McGowan said it was up to the federal government whether it wanted to charter flights and quarantine returning Australians at a federal facility.
But his comments were out of step with his federal colleague and shadow housing minister Jason Clare, who on ABC Radio National said the federal government should bring stranded Australians home.
“The government needs to have a look at those Aussies that are desperately still trying to get out of India,” he said.
“There are cricket players there – there are Australian nationals there that have been trying to get out for months and months – and see what action they can take to get those Australians home as safely as they possibly can.”
The moratorium on direct India flights will be in place until May 15 but Mr Morrison said the government was considering chartering flights to bring the most vulnerable Australians home.


More cases likely from India flights

About half of WA’s 28 COVID-positive cases currently in hotel quarantine are returned travellers from India.
Mr McGowan flagged the possibility of more cases after four people tested positive following their flight into Perth on April 24.
He said 78 of the 79 passengers on flight MH125 had been in India recently.

“Our expectation is the number of positive cases from this group of people will grow and potentially grow significantly,” he said.
The Premier also revealed national cabinet agreements requiring returning travellers to record a negative test before boarding their flight, and spend at least 72 hours in another country if returning from India, were not being adhered to.
“I don’t know if that’s working and I don’t know if it’s even been implemented,” he said.
“We obviously have a problem with India, I think some of the tests are being conducted in India either aren’t accurate, or believable and clearly that’s causing some issues here.”


McGowan takes hardline approach on Australians stranded in India
 

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India’s fortnight of pure hell
By Amrit Dhillon

Updated April 30, 2021 — 12.28pmfirst published at 11.55am



New Delhi: The settings are different but the stories are identical.
Sujata Reddy, 58, lives in a three-storey mansion with fluted columns and a pool in Vasant Vihar, an elite quarter of the Indian capital. She is very rich and counts tycoons, diplomats and senior civil servants among her close friends and neighbours.
Swapnil Rastogi, 26, lives in Lucknow, more than 500 kilometres away, but his home is a two-room rented space with no windows in a dark narrow lane where he lives with his parents.

Relatives console each other at a cremation in Jammu, India.


Relatives console each other at a cremation in Jammu, India.CREDIT:AP


Both Reddy and Rastogi’s elderly parents contracted COVID-19 around the middle of April and both were reducing to begging, Rastogi for oxygen for his 59-year-old father in the smaller clinics of Lucknow and Reddy for a bed for her 97-year-old father in the top private hospitals of Delhi.

“I called up everyone I knew and their uncle. I worked the phones for days. I knew, given his age, that my father would need doctors, medicines, injections, oxygen, medical support, but no one had a bed. At one point I was begging the daughter of the owner of a top hospital, who was in New York, for a bed but she said her best friend had died for lack of a bed,” Reddy said.
Rastogi, on the last day of his father’s life, kept patting and reassuring him. He could see the panic in his eyes as his oxygen level kept dipping. “Papa, please be patient, please hold on. We will get you on a ventilator,” he kept repeating.


Swapnil Rastogi, left, could not procure oxygen for his father, Raj Kumar, right, in Lucknow, India.


Swapnil Rastogi, left, could not procure oxygen for his father, Raj Kumar, right, in Lucknow, India.
Rastogi weeps as he remembers Raj Kumar’s last words: “Have you bought any oranges for your mother?”
He died at home after Rastogi, despite all his efforts and pleading with hospital officials, failed to find him an ICU bed.


In a country known for extreme inequalities, the second wave of COVID-19 has been a great leveller, engulfing rich and poor in almost equal measure in a shuddering helplessness as their loved ones die for lack of oxygen or treatment in what has been a fortnight of pure hell.
In bitter words that are being voiced all over India as the pandemic runs riot, Rastogi said: “It wasn’t the virus that killed my father, it was the lack of treatment. If I had found a bed, he would be alive with me today.”

People wait to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Mumbai, India, on Thursday. Several states have reported running out of vaccine doses.


People wait to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Mumbai, India, on Thursday. Several states have reported running out of vaccine doses.CREDIT:AP
India’s poor have always dreaded illness. They know they are unlikely to get good medical treatment, making them fatalistic about dying. The rich also dread serious illness but, in one way, suffer less panic because they know that, with money and contacts, they can access the best doctors and hospitals.
But in this frightening and catastrophic wave, the wealthy and the middle class have felt almost as vulnerable and helpless as Rastogi. Until now, contacts always worked - often they are the only thing that works in an emergency. Even if someone like Reddy does not know an influential person herself, she will know someone who does and the job will be done.

But not this time. This is a time no Indian has ever seen before.



Federal Government confirms Border Force are 'dealing with' India travel loophole


The Federal Government has confirmed Border Force is "looking into" a travel loophole that could allow travellers from India to return to Australia.
The rich and powerful also have had to resort to social media for information on which hospital might have a bed or where to get oxygen. WhatsApp has been a lifeline when all the hospital and government helplines have been so flooded with calls that there is no point trying to get through.
Their sense of vulnerability at not being able to protect the people they love has shot up as they have watched the images on TV and read the heartbreaking stories online.
Pradip Bijalwan, for example, was a doctor who spent the past decade treating the homeless in New Delhi. He treated them through the first wave last year too. When he tested positive in April and his oxygen saturation levels started dipping, he tried and failed to find a bed. He died at home.

Or Syed Yusuf, 34, who contracted the disease last year and felt so grateful to have recovered that he donated plasma twice. When his mother developed respiratory problems, he tried six hospitals in New Delhi for a bed while brandishing three bits of paper. One was his mother’s test result. The others were the certificates of appreciation he received for his plasma donation. He hoped the latter would add weight to his pleas, give him an edge in the survival of the fittest being played out on the streets outside hospital gates.

Regina Jefferies and Jane McAdam
“When others needed me, I was there […] I donated plasma twice, only because I thought I would be saving someone’s life. But when I needed help, where was everybody?” Yusuf said bitterly to an Indian Express reporter after his mother died.
Or Mukul Vyas, who rushed his mother to a hospital in Delhi on Tuesday. After three hours she had still not been admitted. She died in the auto-rickshaw, with Vyas pummelling her chest to see if she was alive.
Beside himself with grief, he told reporters: “They [hospital officials] kept asking me for formalities. Send this paper on WhatsApp, send that paper. Was I going to do that or was I going to get help for my mother?”

An affluent middle-aged couple in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh were turned away by six hospitals when they searched for a bed with oxygen. They got into their SUV and drove 850 kilometres to West Bengal.


This was something Reddy too was considering at one point when her father’s oxygen saturation levels refused to stabilise: head out of Delhi and drive to a city, any city, that might have an ICU bed.
“Some of the doctors I spoke to told me to try Jaipur [300 kilometres away] in case I got lucky there. But I couldn’t face putting my dad’s frail body through such a long and tiring car ride. I got lucky and managed to wangle an oxygen concentrator to keep at home and stable,” Reddy said.
India is simply collapsing from the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak. The country has reported more than 18.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began last year. More than 204,000 people have died of it, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. The numbers keep rising inexorably, notching more than 370,000 cases on Thursday, after an average of around 320,000 new daily infections for a week.

Experts say the current surge may have been driven by new virulent Indian variants or the UK variant which has been found in numerous samples. Others point to Prime Minister Narendra Modi thinking the pandemic was over in January and dropping the ball, election campaigns in five states that saw vast numbers turning up for rallies, a series of religious festivals which gathered thousands of people in likely super-spreader events, and many Indians abandoning all COVID protocols over recent months through complacency.

The experts say the infection wave may peak mid-May, but that seems an eternity away. In any case, other experts predict the country’s under-reporting is so serious that it might already have 500 million cases right now.

No one has been spared. Top journalist Barkha Dutt is a household name. On Tuesday, she lost her father to the disease. Dutt knows the who’s who of the entire country through her long journalistic career but she and her sister were reduced to begging for a bed. “Bring your own oxygen,” some hospitals told her.

Eventually, and not without a struggle, she found a bed at Medanta, a medical complex in Gurgaon, just south of New Delhi, but her father died. “When I went to cremate my father, I saw three families fighting over logs and over a patch of ground to place the body,” Dutt told me.

The virus has democratised death too. With the crematoriums in the big cities flooded with six to 10 times the normal number of bodies, rich and poor are all being consigned to the flames in the same ad hoc, indecent manner, with no mourners present nor any ceremony to honour the dead.
Parking lots and scrub land next to the facilities are being used for the funeral pyres, massed row upon row – a macabre site that has frightened Indians and moved the world.

Crematorium officials have never seen such horrific scenes. “The more space we create, the more the bodies keep coming in. We can’t keep up,” said one exhausted official.
Sushil Gupta took his 50-year-old sister’s body to a crematorium in Ghaziabad, just outside the capital, and was shocked at the dancing flames and smoke filling the sky while corpses lay in body bags on the ground, waiting their turn.
“We are twins. She knew me better than I knew myself. I wanted to stay for a while to be with her but the heat from the other pyres was so unbearable I had to leave. I left without giving her the respect she deserved,” he said.


Amrit Dhillon
The obituary page of The Times of India, a daily broadsheet, says all you need to know about the toll. The death notices usually occupy about a quarter or a third of the page. On April 28, they filled the entire page.

After stabilising her father, Reddy is now struggling with her mother, who not only has the symptoms but has become hysterical with fear. She told Reddy: “Your father and I have lived a life of dignity. I don’t want us leaving this house thrown into a dirty ambulance with other bodies.”
Reddy didn’t have the heart to tell her that ambulances are impossible to get. It was more likely to be a ramshackle van.


India’s fortnight of pure hell
 

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How did the COVID-19 outbreak in India get so bad?
By Antonia Noori Farzan and Claire Parker
Updated April 28, 2021 — 2.54pmfirst published at 1.51pm

Rhode Island: In February, healthcare workers and epidemiologists in India puzzled over their good fortune. Coronavirus case counts had gone down, demand for ventilators was manageable and experts predicted that the country would be spared a major second wave.
In April, events have taken a different turn. Images that have gone viral on social media show bodies heaped in makeshift crematoriums. Hospital beds and oxygen are scarce. Desperate patients and relatives have turned to the black market for medicine, while others die in hospitals amid oxygen shortages. Recent days have recorded repeated record infection figures, which are likely under counts.

Relatives and municipal workers in protective suits bury the body of a COVID-19 victim in Gauhati, India.


Relatives and municipal workers in protective suits bury the body of a COVID-19 victim in Gauhati, India.CREDIT:AP

As the pandemic surges - and as hospitals buckle under the strain - some have blamed their government, and the wider world, for failing to stem the cataclysmic spike.
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus surge in India.

How did the outbreak get so bad?
That question continues to puzzle experts. Back in early February, hospitalisation numbers had plummeted and India was reporting 10,000 to 12,000 new cases a day.
It is now the worst country for daily infections, recording seven straight days of more than 300,000 cases, and a focal point of international concern. On Wednesday, it reported 362,757 new infections for a total of nearly 18 million cases, behind only the United States. The Health Ministry also reported fatalities now total 201,187, according to AP.
Experts are starting to think that immunity in India may not have been as widespread as previously believed. Some scientists argue that earlier waves of infections primarily affected the poor, but the current surge is reaching wealthier people who had just started socialising again after staying home and isolating during the first wave.

Large group gatherings may have also played a role: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticised for lifting virtually all restrictions and holding massive political rallies, and a religious festival that drew tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims from all over the country has been linked to more than 100 cases.

People line up dead bodies of those who died of COVID-19 at a crematorium, in New Delhi.


People line up dead bodies of those who died of COVID-19 at a crematorium, in New Delhi.CREDIT:AP

“There was a public narrative that India had conquered COVID-19,” Ramanan Laxminarayan, an epidemiologist in Princeton University, told Nature. People also began to relax more after the launch of a vaccination campaign in January, he added. As a result, many let their guard down and went back to socialising, travelling and holding large weddings.


Are new variants making the situation worse?
It’s not yet clear if the presence of highly-infectious new variants is the key factor that made India’s outbreak go from bad to worse. Scientists generally agree that it’s likely that these variants played a role, but exactly how much of a role is up for debate.

What we do know is that the variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is now the dominant variant in the Indian state of Punjab. That’s significant because multiple studies have found that B.1.1.7 is between 40 per cent to 70 per cent more contagious than earlier iterations of the virus, and also appears to be more lethal.

Another variant, B. 1.617, has become the dominant variant in the state of Maharashtra, according to Nature. That variant is sometimes referred to as the “double mutant” variant because it contains two key mutations that were found in two other highly-infectious strains. So far, however, there’s no hard data that suggests that B. 1.617 is more transmissible than other variants, and India doesn’t perform enough genome sequencing to determine whether B. 1.617 is driving the current outbreak.
Variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa have also been identified in India, the country’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said last month.


What has the government done about it?
Coronavirus vaccines will be available to anyone over the age of 18 starting on May 1. The government is also curbing the number of exported vaccine doses, focusing on distributing those doses to citizens.
Some cities and states have announced new lockdown restrictions, including curfews and bans on travel and non-essential activities. Modi, meanwhile, has said that lockdowns should be a last resort and declined to institute one nationally.



Thousands of Aussies stranded after India flight ban


Federal Government suspends all flights from virus-stricken India
His government is sending oxygen tankers on “Oxygen Express” trains to parts of the country that are facing urgent shortages, and freeing up military stockpiles of medical equipment. Armed forces have been deployed to hospitals. But the government has also ordered social media platforms to take down critical posts that call attention to the catastrophic state of affairs, which many see as a case of misplaced priorities.


Why are there oxygen shortages?

Typically, India’s hospitals and medical clinics use only about 15 per cent of the liquid oxygen produced in the country. Recently, however, nearly 90 per cent of the country’s total supply has been diverted to healthcare facilities, Rajesh Bhushan, a senior health official, told the BBC.


Oxygen tanks outside a ward at the COVID-19 Care Centre set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi. There is a shortage of oxygen for patients in hospital and at home.


Oxygen tanks outside a ward at the COVID-19 Care Centre set up at the Commonwealth Games Village Sports Complex in New Delhi. There is a shortage of oxygen for patients in hospital and at home.CREDIT:BLOOMBERG


Since some Indian states don’t have plants where they can produce their own liquid oxygen, they have to wait for supplies to be trucked in from other parts of the country. Filling up an oxygen tanker takes two hours, according to the BBC, which has led to lengthy lines outside oxygen plants. Once full, the tankers can only drive at 40 kilometres per hour and travel during daylight hours.
As demand soars in crowded hospitals, some critics say the government should have been better prepared. In October, the Health Ministry announced a plan to build more oxygen plants, but so far only 33 out 162 have been constructed. Modi announced plans for another 551 oxygen plants - one for each district - on Sunday. The Prime Minister has ordered that those “be made functional as soon as possible,” a news release from his office stated, but it may already be too late for many of the patients who are dying due to oxygen shortages at hospitals right now.
“We have been telling authorities that we are willing to increase our capacity, but we need financial aid for that,” Rajabhau Shinde, who runs a small oxygen plant in Maharashtra, told the BBC. “This should not have happened. As the saying goes, dig the well before you’re thirsty. But we didn’t do that.”

How has the world responded?
Several countries have stepped up to help.
Singapore, Germany, and the United Kingdom dispatched oxygen-related materials to India over the weekend - they began arriving on Wednesday. France, Russia and Australia will send medical aid, and China and Pakistan have offered help.
The European Union is coordinating with member states to provide oxygen and medicine, and World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO would send additional staff and supplies.

South Korea on Wednesday said it would provide oxygen concentrators, COVID-19 diagnostic kits and other aid items. It will also allow irregular flights to bring back South Korean nationals from India. Returnees will undergo virus tests three times and be placed under quarantine.
As other countries offered aid, pressure mounted over the weekend for the US to do more.
The US said it would send raw vaccine materials, ventilators, personal protective equipment, oxygen-related supplies and therapeutic medicines. It is also mobilising an American “strike team” of health experts, as well as funding for “a substantial expansion” of Indian vaccine manufacturing capability.
In a phone call with Modi on Monday (Tuesday AEST), Biden pledged to support to beat back the virus surge. The White House also announced the US would share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine with other countries after they undergo a safety check - a process that could take weeks or
months. It’s unclear how many of those doses will go to India.

Awash in vaccines, the US has faced criticism for hoarding doses and maintaining policies that have curbed the export of vaccines and raw materials. Doctors Without Borders praised the United States’ decision to donate AstraZeneca doses, but urged the US government to demand that pharmaceutical companies “share technologies and know-how” with manufacturers across the world. Pharmaceutical companies have rebuffed such requests.

The Washington Post

How did the COVID-19 outbreak in India get so bad?
 

Big Daddy

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The next stage in this pandemic will be abuse and corruption. As countries give oxygen and ventilators, hospitals will start asking for bribes for admitting a patient.
 

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The next stage in this pandemic will be abuse and corruption. As countries give oxygen and ventilators, hospitals will start asking for bribes for admitting a patient.
Already started !

Heavy Payers have enough supplies..

No shortage at all.

Only 2-3 days of panic was there.
Now it is controlled.
People have made self groups and community is helping each other.
Situation is getting better with proper channelisation of resources.
 

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गुरुग्राम में लगाया जा रहा है Oxygen का 'लंगर'- Gurugram News
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गुरुग्राम के सेक्टर 42 में Hemkunt Foundation द्वारा लगाया जा रहा है ऑक्सीजन का लंगर । जरुरतमंदों को टेंट लगाकर दी जा रही है ऑक्सीजन
 

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Hemkunt Foundation: Lending a helping hand with oxygen cylinders
The NGO's team of 150 volunteers is working round the clock to procure and provide free oxygen cylinders to Covid-19 patients across the country

BY ANUBHUTI MATTA
3 min read
PUBLISHED: Apr 30, 2021 01:11:57 PM IST
UPDATED: Apr 30, 2021 02:35:45 PM IST



Harteerath Singh, community development director at Hemkunt Foundation
Image: Hemkunt Foundation



During the first wave of Covid-19 last year, Gurugram-based NGO Hemkunt Foundation, along with distributing at least 360 tons of cooked meals among migrant workers and labourers, also arranged for oxygen cylinders.



Now, in the second wave too it is procuring oxygen cylinders for those in need. But the difference is last year they would receive only 100 calls a month for oxygen. “Now, we receive at least 15,000 calls a day from all over India,” says Harteerath Singh, community development director at Hemkunt.


In the past two weeks, Singh has barely slept eight hours in all. On most days, his first meal is at 6pm. “The most crucial (life and death situation) SOS calls usually come between 11pm and 3am. It’s after 4am that the team gets to rest, but only for a couple of hours,” he says.
Hemkunt Foundation, which has been involved in relief activities since 2010 and has a team of about 150 volunteers, has arranged for 4,200-odd oxygen cylinders in the last three weeks. The foundation has procurement and backend teams working round the clock on the field looking for vendors and factories, says Singh. “And we obviously have a strong network to import oxygen from abroad,” he adds. As far as distribution is concerned, “…there is a set criteria. We only give oxygen to patients whose oxygen level is below 88.”


Initially, the foundation insisted on test results of patients to provide the cylinders, but now, since even testing is difficult, they check the patient’s oxygen level. “Most cases are genuine, but we need to be doubly sure that the cylinder is going to those actually in need,” says Singh.



A team of 150 volunteers from Hemkunt Foundation have procured and supplied more than 4,200 oxygen cylinders free-of-cost to Covid-19 patients during the second wave
Image: Hemkunt Foundation


To meet the rising demand, the NGO, which has so far run on donations and provided cylinders free of cost to anyone who wants them, also started a “drive through” scheme for patients to go to their office and inhale oxygen. This alone has helped save 500 lives.


Singh, who is still studying and has an honorary position with the foundation, says that despite having the resources, procurement is still a difficult task. “It’s taking a lot of time, and time is of the essence. It’s criminal to lose a single minute but we are trying our best to save every life,” he says. “I see three to five deaths daily, I’ve myself got Covid-19 twice, but I will continue to do this even if it means losing my life. It’s just one against lakhs.”


Patients who have lived because of him and his NGO want to thank him for the efforts to keep them alive–by helping keep others alive. “Everyone tells me, now I have antibodies so I want to volunteer too. That makes us happy but we’re keeping our team small for maximum efficiency,” Singh says.


This despite the fact that things are only going to get worse, according to Singh. “We haven’t hit the peak yet and this is our state. I’m on the field and aware of the manufacturing status. Trust me, no one has woken up and no one is ready to take this virus seriously,” he says before signing off quickly to attend to the dozen SOS calls he has missed while doing this interview.



To donate, visit: Donate Now – Hemkunt Foundation


 
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