A fire in a COVID-19 hospital ward in western India has killed 15 patients, as the country grappling with the worst outbreak yet steps up a vaccination drive for all its adults even though some states say don’t have enough jabs.
Fifty other patients at the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, a town in Gujarat state, were rescued by hospital workers and firefighters, police officer Rajendrasinh Chudasama said.
The fire broke out early on Saturday in a COVID-19 ward on the ground floor and was extinguished within an hour, the Press Trust of India news agency quoted the fire service as saying. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
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On April 23, a fire in an intensive care unit killed 13 COVID-19 patients in the Virar area on the outskirts of Mumbai.
Faced with an unprecedented surge in cases that has filled hospitals and crematoriums, creating a major crisis in a country of 1.4 billion, the government on Saturday shifted its faltering vaccination campaign into high gear by saying all adults 18 and over were getting their shots.
Since January, nearly 10 per cent of Indians have received one dose, but only about 1.5 per cent have received both, though India is one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines.
Some states already said they do not have enough doses for everyone. Even the ongoing effort to inoculate people above 45 is stuttering.
The state of Maharashtra has said it will not be able to start on Saturday. Satyender Jain, the health minister in the capital, New Delhi, said this week the city did not have enough doses to vaccinate people between 18 and 44.
India on Friday reported another global daily record of 386,452 new cases, pushing the overall toll to more than 18.7 million since the pandemic began, second only to the United States. The health ministry also reported 3498 more deaths, bringing the total to 208,330. Experts believe both figures are an under-count.
The US, meanwhile, has joined a growing list of countries restricting travel from India, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.
This week, the US began delivering therapeutics, rapid virus tests and oxygen to India, along with some materials needed for India to boost its domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines.
Other nations have also sent assistance, and the Indian air force flew oxygen containers from Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok.
© AP 2021