A court in India's capital New Delhi has become the last hope for many hospitals struggling to get oxygen for COVID-19 patients as supplies run dangerously short while government officials bicker over who is responsible, reports Reuters.
A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals invoking India's constitutional right to protection of life. Local and federal officials are attending.
The court's intervention has saved lives, lawyers say.
On Sunday, with just 30 minutes of oxygen left for 42 virus patients at Sitaram Bhartia hospital, and new supplies nowhere in sight, hospital authorities approached the Delhi court as a "last resort" for help, lawyer Shyel Trehan said.
The judges ordered the Delhi state government to immediately arrange supplies.
"Oxygen cylinders arrived soon after the hearing, and a tank arrived a few hours later," Trehan said.
The shortage of medical oxygen has plagued the city of 20 million people for about two weeks, with unprecedented scenes of patients dying on hospital beds, in ambulances and in carparks outside, gasping for air.
Delhi is recording about 20,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. As the health system buckles, the city says it needs 976 tonnes of medical oxygen daily, but gets less than 490 tonnes, allocated by the federal government.
Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called for a nationwide lockdown as the country's tally of coronavirus infections surged past 20 million on Tuesday, becoming the second nation after the United States to pass the grim milestone.
India's deadly second wave of infections, the world's biggest surge in coronavirus infections, has seen it take just over four months to add 10 million cases, versus more than 10 months for its first 10 million.
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