COVID-19 wreaks havoc in India: Hospitals, crematoriums struggle to keep up as caseload continues to rise

As COVID-19 cases rise in India, hospitals have been left scrambling to accommodate the influx of patients, while crematoriums and burial grounds see long queues and increasing wait times. As of Thursday morning, India has more than 14.71 lakh actives cases, having for the first time ever added more than two lakh new cases in a single day.

But as the numbers continue to increase, the healthcare infrastructure is slowly crumbling. In parts of Maharashtra, visuals show COVID-19 patients huddling in wheelchairs to receive oxygen or taking up residence on beds set up hastily in the hospital lobby. Elsewhere, local administrations are converting stadiums and banquet halls into temporary hospitals, or roping in hotels to house infected individuals. In Delhi, nearly 900 beds have been added to hospitals by taking over attached banquet halls, schools and sports complexes.

Friends and family members have now resorted to messaging on social media platforms seeking beds for hundreds of people affected by the virus. In Gujarat, visuals shared by news agency ANI show ambulances queued up outside hospitals, with waiting time gradually increasing. Similar situations prevail at Delhi's LNJP Hospital, while visuals from Raipur show dead bodies left lying on hospital beds. Meanwhile in Mumbai, many have alleged a shortage of oxygen supply.

But perhaps a far more problematic statistic is the rising death toll. While some allege that local administrations are underreporting the death toll, the available numbers and the crowding of graveyards and crematoriums already paint a bleak picture. On Thursday morning, India reported 1,038 deaths and more than two lakh fresh cases. A comparison against the first wave of the pandemic indicates that people might now be dying far more frequently from COVID-19.

As the toll rises, housing the dead becomes an increasingly bigger problem. According to reports, Delhi's Nigambodh Ghat crematorium has seen it's daily caseload double, even as its biggest graveyard presses a JCB excavator into service and worries about running out of space.

In Ahmedabad, there is now reportedly a waiting time of several hours for cremation. And in Bihar, a Patna Municipal Corporation-run crematorium is reportedly demanding as much as Rs 12,000-16,000 to perform last rites of COVID-19 patients.

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