India set a global record in daily infections for a second straight day Friday as it struggles to provide oxygen and other emergency supplies to a growing number of COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breath.
The South Asian nation’s health ministry said it counted 332,730 new infections in the previous 24-hour period, surpassing Thursday’s record daily toll of 314,835.
In western India, a fire at the Vijay Vallabh Hospital killed at least 13 COVID-19 patients, while at least six hospitals in the capital of New Delhi either depleted their oxygen supplies or came dangerously close to running out.
The oxygen shortage is so acute that the high court ordered the national government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals, prompting authorities to transport oxygen tanks on special express trains.
The Biden administration’s top medical adviser on the pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Friday the U.S. is attempting to help India contain its coronavirus surge by providing technical support and assistance.
“It is a dire situation that we’re trying to help in any way we can,” Fauci said at the regularly held White House coronavirus briefing. “They have a situation there where there are variants that have arisen. We have not yet fully characterized the variants and the relationship between the ability of the vaccines to protect. But we’re assuming, clearly, that they need vaccines.”
Johns Hopkins University reports that India has more than 16 million COVID-19 cases. Only the U.S., with almost 32 million cases, has more infections than India.
In a recent essay in The New York Times, the director-general of the World Health Organization offered some scathing words for countries that have snatched up the world’s supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote “vaccine nationalism” has weakened COVAX, WHO’s initiative to provide vaccines to countries that need help securing them. Instead, what has emerged in the world, he said, is “a handful of rich countries gobbling up the anticipated supply as manufacturers sell to the highest bidder, while the rest of the world scrambles for the scraps ... perpetuating the pattern of patronage that keeps the world’s have-nots exactly where they are.”
The solution to combating the pandemic, the WHO chief said, “comes down to a simple choice: to share or not to share.”
“Whether or not we do,” he said, “is not a test of science, financial muscle or industrial prowess; it’s a test of character.”
Pope Frances met with a group of poor people Friday who were getting their coronavirus vaccinations, which had been donated by the Vatican.
As the group gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican to receive their second dose of the 600 available doses, the pope greeted them and volunteers helping with the vaccinations.
Japan is set to declare a state of emergency because of a surge in COVID-19 infections, just three months before the opening of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“We have a strong sense of crisis," Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan's minister for virus response, said Friday, according to Agence France-Press.
Japan has more than 550,000 COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins.
Johns Hopkins University reported Friday nearly 145 million people worldwide had been infected with COVID-19 and that the disease had killed more than 3 million people.