Hospitals in India Prepare for Third Wave of COVID-19 Transmission ahead of Festive Season

Tuesday, 07-September-2021 21:20

illustration: a hospital in India
Image : Special
illustration: a hospital in India

NEW DELHI, NETRALNEWS.COM - When cases and deaths from COVID-19 exploded in India in April and May, New Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and other hospitals ran out of oxygen and many patients died.

At the hospital on Friday, the last COVID-19 patient was preparing to go home after being treated.

Health experts say India's success in reversing the situation is driven by the increasing level of public immunity from natural infection and vaccination.

But the hospital has learned from the bitter experience during the second wave of COVID, when piles of wood kept burning bodies and corpses strewn on the banks of the Ganges.

India is currently facing a potential spike in cases again with the festive season in September-November.

Treatment beds have been added and the hospital is working to ensure an adequate oxygen supply.

Sir Ganga Ram Hospital is increasing oxygen storage capacity by 50 per cent, building a one km gas pipeline to the COVID ER, and installing equipment to keep oxygen flow high.

India has also ordered oxygen generating engines, which are generally European-made and take months to arrive in the country, given high global demand.

"Given the possible emergence of a mutated coronavirus, with a higher rate of transmission and immunity, hospitals continue to prepare for the worst," said Satendra Katoch, medical director of Ganga Ram.

But the bustling private hospital said they had no room for extra beds.

During the second wave of the outbreak, Ganga Ram increased capacity by almost 50 percent to around 600 beds.

But still, about 500 patients a day had to queue up for treatment, said doctor Varun Prakash who headed the "war command room" during the crisis.

Nationally, India has added more hospital beds in recent months and imported more than 100 oxygen reservoirs bringing the total to 1,250 units.

Companies like Linde plan to increase India's total medical oxygen production by 50 percent to 15,000 tonnes per day.

Linde said they had secured 60 of the 80 cryogenic (very cold oxygen storage) containers from their overseas offices in anticipation of a spike in cases.

"Distribution infrastructure and logistics plummeted during the second wave," said Linde South Asia head Moloy Banarjee.

The federal government has approved the installation of about 1,600 oxygen generators in hospitals, though fewer than 300 had been installed as of early last month as imports take time.

Nearly all states set up special pediatric wards after experts warned unvaccinated children could be vulnerable to the new virus mutation.

States such as Madya Pradesh are adding to their stockpile of anti-viral drugs such as Remdesivir.

Government surveys estimate that as many as two-thirds of Indians already have antibodies to fight COVID-19 naturally, and 57 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Under these conditions, experts believe the spike in new infections will be much less than the second wave.

"The number of susceptible people will be less now, as many people have been infected or vaccinated," said epidemiologist and cardiologist K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

"Even if repeated infections or new infections emerge, it is likely to be milder and treatable at home. Serious problems in health care during the second wave are unlikely to occur."

Kerala is already showing such signs. The southern state currently has the highest cases of infection, including among residents who have been fully or partially vaccinated, but its death rate remains below the national average.

With 3.1 million cases, India is the second country in the world after the United States to report the most total cases, with 441,042 deaths.

They have administered 698.4 million doses of the vaccine. Of the 944 million adult population, 57 percent have received at least one dose and 17 percent have received two doses.

The health ministry plans to vaccinate the entire adult population this year.

Epidemiologist and public health expert Chandrakant Lahariya said the data and trends were encouraging.

"With emerging evidence that for people who have been infected, one dose will provide greater antibody levels than those who have never been infected or received both doses of the vaccine, that's reassuring for India." 

Reporter : turkhan
Editor : turkhan