Daily Mail Online & AP: LONDON, England – Doctors in India are being attacked by relatives of COVID victims as anger mounts over the country’s collapsing healthcare system which has been crippled by a brutal second wave.
In one piece of footage shot in Delhi today, a group of men can be seen attacking medics and security guards with a large wooden stick after their 67-year-old relative died in the waiting room because no ICU beds were available.
Apollo Hospital, where the attack took placed between 9am and 10am, said a number of medics were hurt in the brawl but had to immediately return to duty because of the number of patients who need treatment.
Meanwhile another piece of footage shot in Pune last week showed 25-year-old Dr Siddhant Totla being punched, kicked and beaten with a pipe after a 65-year-old man died and his relatives turned on staff.
India’s healthcare system has all-but collapsed under a brutal second wave of virus that saw the country report more then 323,000 new cases of virus on Tuesday and 2,700 new deaths.
Amid warnings that the wave is being driven by a “far more infectious and probably more deadly” variant, medics and politicians in neighbouring Pakistan now fear they could be next.
“We are clearly heading towards a situation India is facing today,” Dr Muhammad Suhail of Hayatabad’s Medical Complex hospital warned on Tuesday.
“Both Pakistan and India have same issues. People in both countries aren’t following the (precautions),” he told The Telegraph.
Officially, Pakistan has no cases of the Indian variant but authorities are clearly worried – bringing in a tranche of new restrictions last week and this week deploying the army to enforce them.
Soldiers carrying rifles marched alongside police through the streets of Lahore – just 15 miles from the border – on Tuesday, keeping an eye out for anyone violating new mask-wearing laws or staying out after the 6pm curfew.
Inside hospitals, junior doctors say they are being treated as “cannon fodder” and left to treat four or five times their usual number of patients while their more senior colleague – who are more at risk from the disease – stay off the front lines.
They say the government is paying them two months in arrears while forcing them to work day and night, even if they begin showing COVID symptoms.
To make matters worse, senior doctors are refusing to treat virus patients.
“I get that senior doctors are older and more susceptible to the virus. But as we have seen in this wave, the virus affects old and young alike,” said Tara, who suffers from asthma but has been doing regular COVID-19 duty.
The hospital has gone from zero to 200 beds for virus patients amid the surge. Two doctors used to take care of 15 beds – now they’re handling 60.
Staff numbers are also falling, as students test positive at an alarming rate. Nearly 75 per cent of postgraduate medical students in the surgery department tested positive for the virus in the last month, said a student from the department who spoke anonymously out of fear of retribution.
“What kind of doctors is this one year going to produce?” said Dr Shraddha Subramanian, a resident doctor in the department of surgery at Sassoon Hospital.Crematorium workers pile wood on top of bodies for burning at a cremation ground in New DelhiQueues of desperate Indians wait in line for COVID vaccines in hard-hit Mumbai as doctors call on foreign countries to donate spare doses to help them out of the current crisisPatients rest inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New DelhiCases and deaths are still soaring in India as the country suffers through the world’s worst second wave of COVID, with another 323,000 infections and 2,700 deaths reported today (pictured, a ward in New Delhi)Hospitals are running desperately short on intensive care beds and oxygen to give to COVID patients, who are now dying at the rate of more than 100 per hour (pictured, a hospital in New Delhi)
India’s infection and death rates are growing exponentially, overwhelming hospitals, in contrast to some wealthier Western nations that are starting to ease restrictions.
The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide, with India driving the latest surge in global case numbers, recording over 350,000 new infections on Tuesday.
Crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from Britain were unloaded at a Delhi airport early Tuesday, the first emergency medical supplies to arrive in the country.
Elsewhere in the capital AFP images showed smoke billowing from dozens of pyres lit inside a parking lot that has been turned into a makeshift crematorium.
The United States, France, Germany, Canada and the World Health Organization have all promised to rush supplies to India.
President Joe Biden announced on Monday the United States would send up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine abroad.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the recipient countries had not yet been decided and that the administration was still formulating its distribution plan.
But India appeared to be a leading contender after Biden spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi – whose Hindu-nationalist government is under fire for allowing mass gatherings such as religious festivals and political rallies in recent weeks.
“India was there for us, and we will be there for them,” Biden tweeted after the call with Modi, referencing India’s support for the United States when it was enduring the worst of its COVID crisis.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday described the situation in India as ‘beyond heartbreaking’.
‘WHO is doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies,’ Tedros said.
France also said it would send eight oxygen production units, as well as oxygen containers and respirators, to India.
However many nations have also sought to close borders to travellers from India, fearful of a variant that appears to be one of the drivers of the surge.