India ordered its armed forces on Monday to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections, as nations including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged urgent medical aid to try to contain an emergency overwhelming the country’s hospitals.
In a meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said oxygen would be sent to hospitals from armed forces reserves and retired medical military personnel would join COVID-19 health facilities.
Where possible, military medical infrastructure will be made available to civilians, a government statement said, as new coronavirus infections hit a record peak for a fifth day.
“Air, Rail, Road & Sea; Heaven & earth are being moved to overcome challenges thrown up by this wave of COVID19,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Twitter.
Modi said he had spoken to U.S. President Joe Biden about the crisis, discussing supply chains for COVID-19 vaccine raw materials and medicines. On Sunday Biden said his country would send medical supplies to India to help fight the pandemic.
Modi has urged all citizens to get vaccinated and to exercise caution amid what he called a “storm” of infections, while hospitals and doctors in some northern states posted urgent notices saying they were unable to cope with the influx.
“Currently the hospital is in beg-and-borrow mode and it is an extreme crisis situation,” said a spokesman for the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the capital, New Delhi.
India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has an official tally of 17.31 million infections and 195,123 deaths, after 2,812 deaths overnight, health ministry data showed, although health experts say the figures probably run higher.
Virologists said more infectious variants of the virus, including an Indian one, have fuelled the resurgence.
The southern state of Karnataka, home to the tech city of Bengaluru, ordered a 14-day lockdown from Tuesday, joining the western industrial state of Maharashtra, where lockdowns run until May 1.