Too sick to treat: Over 500 health staff test positive for virus in Indian state

An elderly man gets inoculated at a drive-in vaccination facility in Mumbai. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 06 May 2021

Too sick to treat: Over 500 health staff test positive for virus in Indian state

  • Infections, deaths surging in Maharashtra as Supreme Court rules on oxygen crisis

NEW DELHI: More than 500 medical staff have tested positive for coronavirus in the Indian state of Maharashtra, adding to the woes of the country, where most hospitals are already grappling with an acute shortage of health workers.

On Wednesday, the country registered more than 382,000 coronavirus cases and a record 3,700 deaths, of which the western state of Maharashtra accounted for 51,800 infections and almost 900 fatalities.

Last week, India accounted for almost half of coronavirus cases reported worldwide, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, as deaths in the south Asian nation surged during the past 24 hours.

Pune, one of Maharashtra’s main urban centers with a population of more than 3.5 million people, is the second-worst affected city in India, with almost 6,000 cases being reported each day. The city has recorded 880,545 infections and 9,770 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.

“The city’s only public hospital, Sassoon Hospital, is working beyond its capacity, and the hospital is understaffed,” Dr. Pransant Munde, secretary of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, told Arab News on Wednesday.

“In Pune itself, over the last one month, more than 100 doctors have become infected, and if you take the overall picture of the state, more than 500 medical staff have tested positive,” Munde said.

Last week, several doctors went on a “token strike” in Pune to pressure authorities into providing more staff to hospitals.

Munde said that the situation is “so grim,” that at times, “four patients are placed in one bed and then treated.”

He added: “Doctors who test positive have to return to work within seven days of rest,” contrary to the mandatory 14-day quarantine that is advised in such cases.

“We feel helpless when we see patients dying in front of our eyes due to lack of oxygen or care. Just the other day, a 34-year-old man died in front of us because he could not get proper attention. A doctor has limitations,” Munde said.

“Doctors are not only treating the patients, but also taking dead bodies to the mortuary, a job done by nonmedical workers. We are always running the risk of getting infected,” he added.

Blaming the government for its failure to improve the state’s medical infrastructure over the past year, Munde said: “Be it the state government or the central government, they have failed the people of the country in this crisis.”

The situation is equally alarming in Mumbai, the financial hub of India and the capital of Maharashtra, with hundreds of doctors testing positive for coronavirus.

“There are more than 200 resident doctors who have become infected in recent times,” Dr. Akshaya Yadav of Sion Hospital told Arab News.

He said: “Compared with last year, the doctors are not being taken care of well.

“If two to three doctors stay in a single room, they are bound to spread the infection. Last year, doctors were accommodated in hotels and properly taken care of,” he added.

Vanita Bokde, another doctor from the same hospital, said that several doctors “who should be finishing their residencies are overstaying,” because there are no clear guidelines.

He added: “More doctors are getting infected because a large number of them are deployed everywhere. We are final year students; we have to study, we have to do our duty. Our residencies have finished, but were extended due to the pandemic.”

Mumbai-based doctor Shariva Randive agreed, saying: “The virus load this time is high.”

Sharive added: “Combined with poor accommodation for doctors and long working hours, infections among doctors are increasing.”

Meanwhile, India’s national capital New Delhi continues to gasp for air amid a severe shortage of medical oxygen, forcing the Supreme Court on Wednesday to order the federal government to present a “comprehensive plan to ensure that Delhi receives its quota of 700 metric tonnes of oxygen by Thursday morning.”

However, Pune-based doctor Avinash Bhondwe warned that the health crisis across the country “is not going to ease anytime soon.” 

Bhondwe, a member of the country’s premier doctors’ group, the Indian Medical Association, told Arab News: “Maharashtra is showing signs of little improvement, but that cannot be said about the rest of the country.” 

The problem, he added, is that “even if you have more beds today, you don’t have oxygen.”


Greek police clash with protesters in rally against mandatory vaccinations

Updated 29 min 9 sec ago

Greek police clash with protesters in rally against mandatory vaccinations

  • Over 4,000 people rallied outside Greek parliament to oppose mandatory inoculations for healthcare workers and nursing staff
  • A rally on Wednesday was marred by violence

ATHENS: Greek police used teargas and water cannon to disperse people who had gathered in central Athens on Saturday to protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
More than 4,000 people rallied outside the Greek parliament for a third time this month to oppose mandatory inoculations for some workers, such as health care and nursing staff.
A police official, who asked not to be named, said some protesters had thrown petrol bombs, prompting the police to respond with tear gas.
A rally on Wednesday was also marred by violence.
Recent polls showed the majority of Greeks would get the shot against the COVID-19 which has claimed 12,890 lives in Greece since the pandemic broke out last year. About 45 percent of a population of 11 million are fully vaccinated.
Greece has ordered the vaccination of health care and nursing home staff as cases have risen and urged school teachers to get the shot in time for the start of the school year in September.
Nearly 2,500 cases were reported on Saturday, bringing the total number of infected people to 474,366.


Far-right and others march against French virus rules

Updated 24 July 2021

Far-right and others march against French virus rules

  • Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it Friday
  • French government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals, and avoid new lockdowns

PARIS: Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement protested Saturday against a bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
Legislators in France’s Senate were debating the bill Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it Friday, as virus infections are spiking and hospitalizations are rising anew. The French government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals, and avoid new lockdowns.
Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures. But not everyone.
Protesters chanting “Liberty! Liberty!” gathered at Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations Saturday around France. Thousands also joined a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower organized by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party.
While most protesters were calm, tensions erupted on the margins of the Bastille march. Riot police sprayed tear gas on marchers after someone threw a chair at an officer. Other projectiles could also be seen in a video of the incident.
Many marchers focused their anger on a French “health pass” that is required to enter museums, movie theaters and tourist sites. The bill under debate would expand the pass requirement to all restaurants and bars in France and some other venues. To get the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus.
Lawmakers have debated the measure amid divisions over how far to go in imposing health passes or mandatory vaccinations.
Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures. They included far-right politicians and activists as well as others angry at President Emmanuel Macron for various reasons.
Remaining members of France’s yellow vest movement, largely from political extremes, are using the virus bill to try to rekindle its flame. The movement started in 2018 as a broad uprising against perceived economic injustice and led to months of protests marked by violence between demonstrators and police, but subsided after the French government addressed many of the protesters’ concerns.


Afghan government imposes night curfew to stem Taliban advance

Updated 24 July 2021

Afghan government imposes night curfew to stem Taliban advance

  • The curfew will be effective between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. local time
  • The resurgent Taliban now controls about half of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts

KABUL: Afghan authorities on Saturday imposed a night-time curfew across 31 of the country’s 34 provinces to curb surging violence unleashed by a sweeping Taliban offensive in recent months, the interior ministry said.
“To curb violence and limit the Taliban movements a night curfew has been imposed in 31 provinces across the country,” except in Kabul, Panjshir and Nangarhar, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The curfew will be effective between 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. local time, Ahmad Zia Zia, deputy interior ministry spokesman said in a separate audio statement to reporters.
Since early May, the Taliban have launched a widespread offensive across the country that has seen the insurgents capture border crossings, dozens of districts and encircle several provincial capitals.
With the withdrawal of American-led foreign forces all but complete, the resurgent Taliban now controls about half of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts.


Vietnam locks down capital Hanoi for 15 days as COVID-19 cases rise

Updated 24 July 2021

Vietnam locks down capital Hanoi for 15 days as COVID-19 cases rise

  • The lockdown order, issued late Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public
  • In the latest wave of COVID-19 since April, Vietnam has recorded over 83,000 infections and 335 deaths

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnam announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi starting Saturday as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.
The lockdown order, issued late Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public. Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open.
Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases. On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours.
Nearly 5,000 of them are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has also extended its lockdown until Aug. 1.
In the latest wave of COVID-19 since April, Vietnam has recorded over 83,000 infections and 335 deaths.
A meeting of the National Assembly that opened in Hanoi on Tuesday with 499 delegates is going ahead, although it was shortened to 12 from the original 17 days.
The delegates have been vaccinated, are regularly tested for the coronavirus and are traveling in a bubble, and are isolated at hotels, according to the National Assembly.


At least 125 dead as heavy rain in India triggers floods

Updated 24 July 2021

At least 125 dead as heavy rain in India triggers floods

  • Maharashtra state is being hit by the heaviest rain in July in four decades, experts say
  • Parts of India’s west coast have received up to 594mm of rain, forcing authorities to move people out of vulnerable areas

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Rescue teams in India struggled through thick sludge and debris on Saturday to reach dozens of submerged homes as the death toll from landslides and accidents caused by torrential monsoon rain rose to 125.
Maharashtra state is being hit by the heaviest rain in July in four decades, experts say. Downpours lasting several days have severely affected the lives of hundreds of thousands, while major rivers are in danger of bursting their banks.
In Taliye, about 180 kilometers southeast of the financial capital of Mumbai, the death toll rose to 42 with the recovery of four more bodies after landslides flattened most homes in the village, a senior Maharashtra government official said.
“About 40 people are still trapped. The possibility of rescuing them alive is thin as they’ve been trapped in mud for more than 36 hours,” said the official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to talk to the media.
Harsh weather has hit several parts of the world in recent weeks, with floods in China and Western Europe and heat waves in North America, raising new fears about the impact of climate change.
Parts of India’s west coast have received up to 594 mm (23 inches) of rain, forcing authorities to move people out of vulnerable areas as they released water from dams about to overflow. The hill station of Mahabaleshwar recorded its highest ever rainfall — 60 cm in 24 hours.
Rescuers were searching for victims of landslides in four other places in the state, the official said.
“Around 90,000 people were rescued from flood affected areas,” the Maharashtra government said in a statement, as authorities released water from overflowing dams.
Thousands of trucks were stuck for more than 24 hours on a highway linking Mumbai with the southern technology hub of Bengaluru, with the road submerged in some places.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was in anguish over the loss of lives.
“The situation in Maharashtra due to heavy rains is being closely monitored and assistance is being provided to the affected,” Modi said on Twitter on Friday.
In the southern state of Telangana, heavy rain caused flooding in the state capital of Hyderabad and other low-lying areas.
Indian environmentalists have warned that climate change and indiscriminate construction in fragile coastal regions could lead to more disasters.
“The rain fury that lashed Mahabaleshwar ... is a strong warning against any more tampering with the ecologically fragile Western Ghats,” environment economist Devendra Sharma said on Twitter referring to the range of hills along India’s west coast.