Hospitals overwhelmed as Delta variant fuels increase in Covid around the world

·3-min read
Medical personnel treat Covid-19 coronavirus patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Muhammed Ali Jinnah hospital in Kabul - WAKIL KOHSAR /AFP
Medical personnel treat Covid-19 coronavirus patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Muhammed Ali Jinnah hospital in Kabul - WAKIL KOHSAR /AFP

A string of countries are warning hospitals are now full of Covid-19 admissions as new variants, particularly the Delta strain first found in India, threaten to swamp wards.

As the highly infectious strain spreads round the world, several countries have pleaded with citizens to abide by safety restrictions over fears their health systems buckle as they did in India.

At the weekend Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, warned hospitals in its capital, Kinshasa, had been “overwhelmed” as the country was hit by a third wave of the disease.

“I am going to take drastic measures to deal with this upsurge of the disease. We’re talking about the Indian variant in particular,” Mr Tshisekedi told reporters.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the two main hospitals treating people with Covid-19 have had to close their doors to new patients because of a lack of beds.

The acting public health minister has previously warned the country is in the grip of a third surge “far more virulent than the first and second waves”.

He warned the country's parliament on Monday of impending disaster as cases continue to climb in the country. The catastrophe in India has raised awareness of the risks from coronavirus, but it is still widely downplayed and few abide by precautions such as wearing masks.

“We are at the peak of the crisis. The people must consider health advice, otherwise we will face a disaster,” Waheed Majrooh said.

A lack of genetic sequencing in the country means officials have little grip on which variants are causing the surge, but doctors say the Delta strain has been circulating for weeks. Afghanistan maintained air links with India throughout that country's Covid crisis.

The country's battered and underfunded hospitals and clinics are ill-equipped to deal with a large wave of patients. Supplies of medical oxygen and drugs are often hard to come by.

The Gulf state of Oman also warned that hospitals are facing an acute shortage of beds, with the main Covid-19 field hospital in the capital, Muscat, now 90 per cent full.

Oman’s cases have more than tripled in the past month, with authorities recording 1,800 infections and 19 deaths from the virus as of Monday.

Doctors told Omani state TV earlier this week that officials had detected in Oman the fast-spreading virus variants first seen in India, Britain and South Africa.

Dr Nabil bin Muhammed al-Lawait, the Muscat field hospital director, said officials were scrambling to increase hospital capacity.

"People are waiting to receive beds," he said. "There is great pressure on hospital beds ... and a shortage of medical staff."

Haiti also appears to be bearing the brunt of a fierce wave of coronavirus infections, even as it has yet to administer a single dose of vaccine.

The country had appeared to fare well during the coronavirus waves of 2020, but has seen cases leap in recent weeks.

Official numbers are thought to be a significant undercount of the true situation and overstretched hospitals are having to turn away patients, while the country's newspapers are full of obituaries, the New York Times reported.

The arrival of new variants has seen infections climb sharply in the Carribean nation of 11 million. The upward trend could prove "catastrophic," Laure Adrien, general director of Haiti's health ministry warned last week.

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