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Northern Ireland businessman says Covid outbreak in his native India devastating


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People line up dead bodies of those who died of Covid-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi yesterday

People line up dead bodies of those who died of Covid-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi yesterday

AP

People line up dead bodies of those who died of Covid-19 at a crematorium in New Delhi yesterday

One of Northern Ireland's most successful entrepreneurs has said the devastating Covid-19 outbreak in India is "very painful" to watch but he hopes the country will turn the corner over the coming days.

Indian-born Belfast hotelier Lord Diljit Singh Rana was speaking as India recorded more than 320,000 new coronavirus cases yesterday.

The 323,144 new infections raised India's total past 17.6m - behind only the United States.

It ended a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country throughout the pandemic, but the decline likely reflects lower weekend testing rather than reduced spread of the virus.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

The health ministry also reported another 2,771 deaths in 24 hours, with roughly 115 Indians succumbing to the disease every hour. The latest fatalities pushed India's death toll to 197,894, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico. Experts say even these figures are probably an undercount.

The surge, spurred by insidious new variants of coronavirus, has undermined the Indian government's premature claims of victory over the pandemic. India's first wave of Covid-19 infections peaked in September, then began a steady decline.

New infections began to tick up again in March, and every day since April 7 the country has recorded more new cases than at the height of its first wave. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from Punjab, Lord Rana, who founded Andras Hotels, said the Indian government mistakenly believed Covid-19 was all over in March and did not prepare for a second wave.

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Overwhelming: Lord Rana said the pictures coming out of India are extremely depressing

Overwhelming: Lord Rana said the pictures coming out of India are extremely depressing

Overwhelming: Lord Rana said the pictures coming out of India are extremely depressing

"What is happening in Delhi is very unfortunate. It is very depressing and painful to watch people suffering and crying and to see hundreds being cremated in one day.

"There are over 300 casualties in Delhi every day and even though it's a big city, that's still a large number.

"People are trying to get places in hospital but they are totally overwhelmed and there is also a shortage of oxygen. The whole situation is very complex.

"It shows that the government and the hospitals did not think about a second phase, so there was no preparation.

"Then when this happened so quickly, the system couldn't cope.

"I think things will get better but the next few days are crucial before we will see any downturn."

India's sinking health system has started receiving much-needed support from foreign nations.

Foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi tweeted photos yesterday of the first shipment of medical aid India received from Britain. It included 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators.

Other nations including the US, Germany, Israel, France and Pakistan have also promised medical aid to India.

The countries have said they will supply oxygen, diagnostic tests, treatments, ventilators and protective gear to help India at a time of crisis which World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday called "beyond heartbreaking".

The country is facing a chronic shortage of space on its intensive care wards. Hospitals are experiencing oxygen shortages with many people forced to turn to makeshift facilities for mass burials and cremations as the country's funeral services have become overwhelmed.

In a bid to tackle the shortage of beds, authorities are turning to train carriages, which have been converted into isolation wards.

India has also started airlifting oxygen tankers to states in need. Special trains with oxygen supplies are also running in the country.

Welcoming the foreign help, Lord Rana said: "It's good to see such global co-operation. After the pandemic, I hope we have the same sort of spirit of working together and helping each other."


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