India virus cases spiral as Baghdad hospital blaze kills 82
India’s capital New Delhi extended its lockdown Sunday and Western nations pledged help as the country’s coronavirus crisis grew, while the death toll from a fire that ravaged an Iraqi Covid-19 hospital rose to 82.
The creaking health facilities in poorer countries were a reminder of the dangers a day after the number of vaccines administered globally surpassed the one billion mark.
India has driven increases in global case numbers in recent days, recording 349,691 fresh infections and 2,767 deaths Sunday — the highest since the start of the pandemic.
“He was gasping for air, we removed his face mask and he was crying and saying ‘save me, please save me’,” Mohan Sharma, 17, said of his father, who died in a queue outside a hospital.
A weeklong lockdown in the megacity of 20 million, set to last until Monday, was extended by one week.
The United States and Britain expressed concern over the surge in infections and said it would swiftly send help to India.
“Alarmed by the epidemiological situation in India. We are ready to support,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.
The fire at Baghdad’s Ibn al-Khatib hospital started with an explosion caused by “a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders”, medical sources told AFP.
The blaze spread quickly across multiple floors in the middle of the night, as dozens of relatives were at the bedsides of the 30 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit, a medical source said.
Many “victims died because they had to be moved and were taken off ventilators, while the others were suffocated by the smoke,” it added.
– Unique Oscars –
Worldwide, the number of vaccine doses administered has doubled in less than a month.
Nevertheless, while most poor countries have also started to vaccinate — mainly thanks to the Covax scheme for global access to Covid-19 jabs — inoculation is still largely a privilege of high-income countries. Home to 16 percent of the world’s population, they have administered 47 percent of vaccine doses.
In the US, regulators ended a pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccines after determining the benefits outweighed the rare blood clotting risk.
The European Union as a whole said it would have enough vaccines to immunise 70 percent of its adult population by the end of July.
The death of fashion designer Alber Elbaz aged 59 after a battle with Covid-19 provided another high-profile example of the deadliness of the virus.
A number of countries have suspended flights with India, and Greece became the latest European country to confirm it had detected a case of the Indian Covid variant.
A limited glimpse of pre-pandemic life will however be on display in the United States on Sunday with a unique Oscars ceremony reuniting Hollywood’s A-listers for the first time in more than a year.