Eighteen people are dead after a fire broke out at a Covid-19 hospital ward in India’s Gujarat state in the early hours of Saturday.
The fire broke out in the intensive care unit of the Welfare Hospital in the western state’s Bharuch district, according to Dr. MD Modiya, a senior district official.
According to Modiya, 16 of the dead were patients. Two were staff members.
Nearly 60 patients were in the hospital at the time of the fire, which broke out around 1 a.m. local time, he said. The remaining patients have been moved to nearby hospitals.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined but initial investigations suggest a short circuit, according to Dr Modiya.
In a tweet on Saturday, Gujarat’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani, said two senior officers from the Indian Administrative Service have been dispatched to Bharuch to investigate the fire. The state government will open a judicial inquiry into the fire, he added.
In an earlier post, Rupani offered his condolences to the patients and staff at Welfare Hospital and offered $5,398 in compensation to the families of each of the victims.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted his condolences.
“Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Bharuch,” he said. “Condolences to the bereaved families.”
India’s southern states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have become the latest to postpone Saturday’s planned national Covid-19 vaccination rollout, citing shortages of shots.
As of Saturday, everyone over the age of 18 is eligible for vaccination in India.
On Friday, Telangana’s Director of Public Health, Dr. G. Srinavasa Rao, tweeted that the state wouldn’t be vaccinating people over the weekend as it hadn’t received doses.
In neighboring Andhra Pradesh, officials have acknowledged that it was not “practically possible” to start vaccinating those over the age 18 due to limited stocks.
“If we need to fulfil the commitment to the former age group batch, it is definitely going to take all of May,” Anil Kumar Singhal, Andhra Pradesh’s Principal Health Secretary, told reporters on Friday.
At least seven states and territories are facing shortages that are impacting the planned vaccine rollout.
Although some are run by opposition party governments, they also include Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, both populous states run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
But not all Indian states are facing issues.
Kerala, where India’s first case of coronavirus was detected in January 2020, has said its vaccination drive will continue.
The state’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, tweeted Wednesday that it had purchased an additional 10 million doses for the next three months. Those requiring their second dose will be prioritized and that Kerala’s “vaccination drive will go ahead, uninterrupted,” he added.
India on Saturday reported 401,993 new coronavirus cases for the previous 24 hours — the first time the country has surpassed 400,000 cases in a single day.
That brings the country’s total Covid-19 caseload to more than 19 million since the pandemic began, and marks the 10th consecutive day of more than 300,000 daily cases, according to a CNN tally of figures from the Indian Ministry of Health. It’s the first time any country has recorded more than 400,000 cases in a single day.
India also reported another 3,523 related deaths, taking its total death toll to 211,853. It is the fourth day in a row the daily number of deaths has exceeded 3,000.
As of Friday evening local time, 154,854,096 vaccine doses had been administered. A total of 27,889,889 people had received their second doses — equal to 2.1% of India’s population of 1.3 billion people, according to a health ministry news release.
India launched its vaccination drive on January 16, and expanded the program to everyone above the age of 18 on Saturday.
Australia has threatened to jail anyone entering the country from India — including its own citizens.
Anyone who has been in India over the past 14 days will be shut out of Australia as of Monday, according to a Health Ministry statement released Saturday.
If they enter, they face a possible penalty of up to five years in prison under Australia’s Bio Security Act.
“The risk assessment that informed the decision was based on the proportion of overseas travellers in quarantine in Australia who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India,” the statement reads.
There are about 9,000 Australian citizens in India registered as wanting to return to Australia, according to the federal government.
Only Australian citizens, permanent residents and those travelling from New Zealand can enter Australia, with few exceptions.
All arrivals into the country must spend 14 days in state-managed quarantine.
Singapore will deny entry to visitors from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the country’s Health Ministry said in a press release on Friday.
From Sunday, long-term visa holders and short-term visitors who have traveled to or transited through those countries in the last 14 days will not be allowed entry or transit through Singapore, the Ministry said.
Starting Monday, travelers from Thailand will no longer be able to opt out of 14-day quarantine in government-designated hotels.
“We will further tighten our border measures given the sustained increase in cases reported in the regions,” the Ministry said.
Singapore banned entry from India last week following the surge of cases in India.
The US should join an effort to force vaccine makers to waive intellectual property rights to coronavirus vaccines and treatments so more countries can start making them, a group of more than 300 public health experts said Friday.
“We are public health faculty, administrators, students and practitioners moved to action by the urgent need for the United States to support the temporary waiver of some Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules proposed by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO) during the COVID-19 emergency,” the group said in a letter to the Biden administration Friday.
“Despite widespread support for its adoption, the Trump Administration led opposition to the waiver and, with a handful of other WTO signatories, blocked its adoption.
“We urge you to reverse this stance by supporting the swift adoption of the temporary waiver and helping ensure all countries achieve access to sufficient vaccines to end the global pandemic and restart the global economy.”
The group, led by Columbia University professors Terry McGovern and Chelsea Clinton, said the so-called TRIPS waiver would allow local manufacture of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. “Allowing countries to manufacture locally will speed access to vaccines and treatment, prevent unnecessary deaths, and facilitate a stronger, faster economic recovery,” they wrote.
“Until vaccines, testing, and treatments are accessible to everyone everywhere we risk recurring new variants, drug resistance, and greater loss of life and suffering at home and globally.”
It’s been an ongoing fight. Vaccine manufacturers have argued intellectual property rights are not the problem, but advocates note it’s not enough for companies to promise not to pursue their patent rights.
“Unless countries cooperate and share medical technology to speed production, there simply will not be sufficient supply of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for many countries — particularly developing countries — to manage COVID-19. Many countries may not have access to widespread COVID-19 vaccination until as late as 2024,” they wrote.
India is experiencing the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
The country has had more than 18.7 million cases since the pandemic began last year. But experts fear the the real number could be up to 30 times higher.
Grieving families are struggling to keep themselves and their loved ones safe amid an overwhelmed health care system, and medical workers are stretched thin as some hospitals run out of oxygen and supplies.
The global community is rallying to help India push back against the pandemic, with countries around the world offering aid.
You can help, too. Learn about charities in the article below and click here to donate.
The Biden administration has confirmed the US will restrict travel from India starting Tuesday in response to the surge of coronavirus cases and variants in the country.
“On the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Administration will restrict travel from India starting immediately,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Friday. “The policy will be implemented in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India. The policy will take effect on Tuesday, May 4.”
Here are some key things to know about the policy:
- The administration will issue a 212(f) order restricting entry into the US for foreign nationals who have been in India within the previous 14 days, a source familiar with the move said. Airlines have been told of the decision, a source said.
- The new policy will take effect on Tuesday at 12:01 am ET.
- The policy will not apply to American citizens, lawful permanent residents or other people with exemptions.
- As with all international travelers, individuals who fit that criteria traveling from India must still test negative prior to leaving the country, quarantine if they have not been vaccinated and test negative again upon reentering the US from India
- The restrictions also do not apply to humanitarian workers.
The White House informed congressional offices on Friday of the move.
Read more about the announcement here.
As India’s Covid-19 crisis spreads, oxygen has become one of the country’s scarcest commodities.
In New Delhi, CNN’s Clarissa Ward met with people waiting for hours to get oxygen for their family members. It is in such short supply that the line went around the block. Some people told CNN they’d been waiting for 25 hours and still had not received oxygen.
Yet even once they get to the front of the line, there’s no guarantee they’ll get any oxygen because demand is so high, and supply is so low.
Volunteers were on hand to give water to those in line. “It’s the first time I’ve seen this situation in my lifetime,” said one volunteer. “This makes us very upset.”
India’s government says it’s trying to address the problem. It has started a program called Oxygen Express, trying to deploy liquid oxygen on India’s railways to cities that need it the most. New Delhi is not seeing the impact of those efforts yet.
On the ground, Ward said she is seeing a growing sense of anger, frustration and desperation. International aid began arriving Tuesday, with countries around the world sending oxygen cylinders, ventilators, medication and other essential supplies. But these supplies need time to be distributed and oxygen plants need to be built. For some of the hardest-hit cities, such as New Delhi, the lack of immediate help and accessible resources means the bodies will keep piling up until assistance arrives.