Sunday , May 16 2021
India faces new lockdowns plus oxygen and drug shortages as cases spiral.

India faces new lockdowns plus oxygen and drug shortages as cases spiral.

NEW DELHI — Delhi enacted a weeklong citywide lockdown on Monday, as infections and deaths in India hit new daily records and several local governments, including in the national capital, reported shortages of oxygen, beds and drugs.

India reported more than 272,000 cases and 1,619 deaths on Monday, as a second wave of the coronavirus continued to spread across the country. The worsening situation has caused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain to cancel a planned trip to the country next week, a decision the British and Indian governments announced on Monday.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, announced on Monday a citywide lockdown beginning at 10 p.m. and ending around 5 a.m. on April 26.

“Our health systems have reached its limit,” he said. “We have almost no I.C.U. beds left. We are facing a huge shortage of oxygen.”

Only essential services, including grocery stores, pharmacies and food delivery, will be allowed, he said. Wedding ceremonies will be restricted to 50 people.

“If we don’t place a lockdown now, it could lead to a big tragedy,” Mr. Kejriwal said.

Also on Monday, a court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh ordered lockdown-like restrictions in the cities of Prayagraj, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur Nagar and Gorakhpur until April 26. Government offices, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and grocery stores with more than three workers will be closed in those cities.

“We can’t shirk away from our constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic,” the court said in its decision.

Last week, the state government of Maharashtra, which includes the financial hub Mumbai, banned public gatherings and ordered most businesses to close for the next few weeks after hospitals there started being overwhelmed. Its chief minister appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to use the Indian Air Force to airlift oxygen cylinders to meet the state’s demand.

India is also facing a shortage of the experimental drug remdesivir.

On Sunday, Hemant Soren, the chief minister of the eastern state of Jharkhand, asked the central government to allow him to import 50,000 vials of the drug, which the World Health Organization hasn’t recommended, from Bangladesh for emergency use.

“The precariousness of the situation will be evident from the fact that against the total order of 76,640 vials, Jharkhand has received only 8,038 vials,” Mr. Soren wrote in a letter to the central government.

The shortages have resulted in squabbles between opposition-led state governments and Mr. Modi’s government, which controls the supply of badly needed medical oxygen and drugs.

On Sunday, Piyush Goyal, a minister in Mr. Modi’s cabinet, asked states to keep the demand for oxygen “under control” and allow patients to use only “as much oxygen as they need.”

“In many places there is news that oxygen is being given even when it is not needed,” he said. Opposition leaders criticized his remarks.

Mr. Modi and his top lieutenants have also come under pressure for holding political rallies gathering thousands of people, with almost no regard for social distancing, at a time when coronavirus cases in the country are spiraling out of control.

On Saturday, Mr. Modi praised the size of the crowd at a rally in the eastern state of West Bengal, where an election is underway. Yashwant Sinha, a former leader of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party who is now head of the opposition United Democratic Alliance, said the remarks “could have come only from a person who is completely insensitive.”

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, said on Sunday that he was canceling his political rallies in the state.

“I would advise all political leaders to think deeply about the consequences of holding large public rallies under the current circumstances,” he said.

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