NEW DELHI — India’s health care system shows signs of buckling under the strain of a second wave of coronavirus infections, as the authorities reported nearly 300,000 new cases on Wednesday and an accident at a Covid-19 hospital killed more than 20 people.
The accident happened at a hospital in the western state of Maharashtra after a leak in the hospital’s main oxygen tank stopped the flow of oxygen to dozens of critically ill people. Televised images showed family members wailing in the wards and nurses frantically pounding on the chests of some patients.
All week, hospitals across India have been warning about an acute oxygen shortage. Many hospital officials said they were just a few hours away from running out.
“Nobody imagined this would happen,” said Subhash Salunke, a medical adviser to the Maharashtra government.
recent political rallies held by Mr. Modi that have drawn thousands, as well as the government’s decision to allow an enormous Hindu festival to continue despite signs that it has become a superspreader event. A few days ago, Mr. Modi indicated that he wanted Hindu worshipers to stay away from this year’s festival, called the Kumbh Mela, which is held on the banks of the Ganges river considered sacred by many Hindus.
But the worshipers keep coming — 70,000 showed up on Wednesday for a holy dip, bringing the total to more than 10 million since the festival began in January — and government officials on the ground are doing little to stop them.
Event organizers said that worshipers were required to produce a negative coronavirus test result or be tested on the spot, but they also acknowledged that with such huge crowds, some participants could have slipped in without being tested. Photographs show a sea of worshipers packed together in the gray waters of the river, many without masks. More than 1,000 tested positive at the site in just 48 hours, according to reports by the Indian news media.
Hindu-first worldview, is giving preferential treatment to Hindus.
“It is a clear example of double standards,” said Khalid Rasheed, chairman of the Islamic Center of India, a nonprofit religious organization.
He compared the government’s apparent endorsement of the Kumbh to the way it handled a much smaller gathering of a few thousand Islamic preachers in New Delhi last March. Not only was the seminary that hosted it shut down, but hundreds of people were also detained. Officials from Mr. Modi’s party blamed the seminary for spreading the virus.