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A court in New Delhi has threatened to punish government officials who have failed to deliver life-saving supplies, as India continues to battle a devastating coronavirus surge which has overwhelmed many of its hospitals.
Hospitals are struggling to secure a steady supply of oxygen, leaving more COVID-19 patients dying amid the shortages.
On Sunday the country recorded a slight drop in new infections with 392,488 from a high of 401,993 in the previous 24 hours.
It also reported 3,689 additional deaths, bringing the total to 215,542. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.
New Delhi extended a lockdown by a week as it continues to battle the wave of infections.
On Saturday 12 patients, including a doctor, on high-flow oxygen, died at a hospital in the capital after it ran out of supplies for 80 minutes, the director of Batra Hospital, S.C.L. Gupta, said.
The government has been using the railroad, the air force and the navy to rush oxygen tankers to the worst-hit areas.
Several hospital authorities sought a court intervention over lack of supplies.
“Water has gone above the head. Enough is Enough,” said New Delhi High Court, adding it would start punishing government officials if supplies of oxygen allocated to hospitals were not delivered.
“We can’t have people dying,’’ said Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Patil.
The court said it would start contempt proceedings.
New Delhi recorded 412 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest since the pandemic started.
The army opened its hospitals to civilians in a desperate bid to control the massive humanitarian crisis.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government also gave emergency financial powers to the army to set up new quarantine facilities and hospitals, and to buy equipment.
The military also called up 600 doctors who had retired in the past few years. The navy deployed 200 nursing assistants in civilian hospitals, a government statement said.
On Saturday, India said all adults 18 and over could get shots. Since January, nearly 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5% have received both, although the country is one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines.
The United States, Britain, Germany and several other nations are rushing therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for India to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines.