COVID-19: The crisis in one of India's worst-hit cities, where someone dies every five minutes

·3-min read

It's one of the worst-hit cities in India - a country which just recorded the highest daily coronavirus cases in the world.

In Delhi, more than 26,000 new cases and 306 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, the equivalent of about one death every five minutes.

India's epidemic has been surging over the past few weeks as a new variant has taken hold.

But Delhi is now seeing the worst of the second wave as hospitals beg for more medical oxygen supplies and crematoriums run out of space for the dead.

Analysis by Sky News shows the number of coronavirus patients taking up hospital beds in Delhi has increased by 1,146 every day on average for the past week.

The number is currently doubling every eight days, according to data from the Delhi chief minister's office.

In early March, when there were just over 500 beds occupied in hospitals across Delhi, more than 5,000 beds lay vacant.

The number of vacant beds is now at its lowest level since the start of the second wave, with only 2,037 spaces free as of 22 April.

India has been increasing its number of hospital beds as infections have surged by creating makeshift spaces in places such as schools and train carriages.

In New Delhi, 75 train coaches have been converted into hospitals to provide an extra 1,200 beds.

Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford is in the city, where she has seen patients being treated on the pavement outside hospitals and others dying as they wait for help.

Some people are absolutely distraught, begging for oxygen and calling for the government to help them.

At Lok Nayak Hospital, medics said beds are only becoming free when someone dies.

But the issue is not just with bed space.

Hospitals in the capital have warned they are running out of oxygen supplies, and one hospital network - Max Healthcare - said it would be suspending new admissions in its hospitals in New Delhi due to a shortage of oxygen.

A man outside the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital told Alex Crawford there were seven oxygen tanks between 70 people.

The New Delhi High Court earlier ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals to save lives, and India's health ministry has said that of the country's total production of 7,500 metric tonnes of oxygen per day, 6,600 metric tonnes is being allocated for medical use.

Still, people are dying.

The country recorded 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 186,920.

Even these figures are likely to be undercounted, as there have been reports of mass cremations and burials taking place.

Jitender Singh Shunty, who runs the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal, a non-profit medical service in Delhi, said 60 bodies had been cremated at a makeshift facility in the car park by Thursday afternoon. Another 15 were still waiting.

He said 78 bodies had been cremated there on Tuesday.

The main cremation ground at Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh state, received nearly 200 bodies on Sunday.

India, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, has confirmed 16 million coronavirus cases in total, second only to the United States.

COVID-19 infections have been doubling every 10 days and the infection rate shows no signs of slowing.

A total of 332,730 cases were reported on Friday, reaching a new global record of daily infections for a second day running.

Lockdowns and harsh restrictions have been imposed in New Delhi and other cities, but critics have accused the government of becoming complacent over the winter.

Despite being a major vaccine producer, the country has given a jab to less than 10% of its population.

Many of the vaccines administered in the country are an Indian-produced version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab called Covishield.

But some states have reported severe shortages of vaccine supplies, calling for help from the central government.

India was initially supplying vaccines through the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme but has had to delay exports due to the perilous situation at home.