HOSPITALS in India are on the verge of collapse as the country battles a ‘double mutant’ Covid strain.
Gravediggers have been burning piles of bodies with furnaces melting from round-the-clock use in the brutal second wave.
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India has been placed on the UK’s red list restricting travel amid fears prevalence of the variant could be up to 10 to 20 times higher and fears rapid tests may not be able to detect it.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday that 103 cases of the Indian variant had been found in the UK.
But MPs part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus were told by scientists today that the figure is likely to be at least 10 times higher.
Officially, almost 180,000 Indians have died from coronavirus, 15,000 of them this month, although some believe the real number may be higher.
India recorded over 250,000 new infections and over 1,700 deaths in the past 24 hours alone.
As cases soar, tests are delayed and medical oxygen is scarce while hospitals are understaffed and overflowing.
Intensive care units are full with nearly all ventilators are in use and the dead are piling up at crematoriums and graveyards.
Horrifying images show row upon row of burning pyres and crematoriums unable to cope.
In the western state of Gujarat, many crematoriums in Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Ahmedabad are operating around the clock with three to four times more bodies than normal.
The chimney of one electric furnace in Ahmedabad cracked and collapsed after being in constant use for up to 20 hours every day for the past two weeks.
The iron frames inside another in the industrial diamond hub of Surat melted because there was no time to let the furnaces cool.
"Until last month we were cremating 20-odd bodies per day… But since the beginning of April we have been handling over 80 bodies every day," said a local official at the Ramnath Ghela Crematorium in the city.
The city of Rajkot has set up a 24/7 control room to manage the flow of its four crematoria.
Some of the crematoria in the northern city of Lucknow ran out of wood and asked people to bring it themselves.
The number of Covid-19 cases has been skyrocketing amid overcrowding and complacency as a million attended a Hindu festival.
A full opening of the economy from last year’s crippling lockdown, coupled with the mass religious festivals and political rallies in states heading to elections have fuelled the crisis.
The Indian variant has been classed as a "variant under investigation" as scientists study to learn more about it.
India faced a tough lockdown last year, but despite an alarming increase in the number of Covid infections, election campaigns are continuing in West Bengal state.
Officials in Delhi, by contrast, have started to impose strict restrictions again.
Shops and factories are now closed, people have been asked to stay at home and only leave if necessary – for example, to seek medical care.
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