At least 22 people died from loss of oxygen in a hospital accident. Infections hit a daily record. And the government faced criticism for allowing an enormous Hindu festival to continue.

By Jeffrey GettlemanSuhasini Raj and Hari Kumar via The New York Times

The accident happened in the western state of Maharashtra on Wednesday, after the leak in the hospital’s main oxygen tank cut off the flow of oxygen to dozens of critically ill patients. Credit…Associated Press

India’s health care system shows signs of buckling under the strain of a second wave of coronavirus infections, as the authorities reported nearly 300,000 new cases on Wednesday and an accident at a Covid-19 hospital killed more than 20 people.

India is now home to the world’s fastest-growing Covid-19 crisis, reporting 294,000 new infections on Wednesday and more than 2,000 deaths. As supplies of hospital beds, oxygen and vaccines run low, criticism of the government is building.

A testing center outside New Delhi last week.
A testing center outside New Delhi last week.Credit…Altaf Qadri/Associated Press

In a televised address on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to be more careful but said that lockdowns were a last resort. States and cities are increasingly going into lockdown on their own, and critics say the government’s mixed messages are making matters worse.

On Wednesday, news of the hospital oxygen leak quickly spread around the country, raising fears that the health care system here, which is chronically underfunded, was about to collapse.

Covid-19 patients at a hospital in New Delhi last week.Credit…Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

The dwindling oxygen supply is becoming one of the most alarming aspects of India’s second wave. To expedite its delivery to hospitals, India’s railway service has begun running what it calls “oxygen express” trains across the country.

India’s health ministry has said that the daily demand for oxygen at hospitals has reached about 60 percent of the country’s daily production capacity of just over 7,000 metric tons. Government officials countered news reports this week that said India had increased oxygen exports as the second wave of infections was approaching, saying those exports amounted to less than 1 percent of daily production capacity.

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