BENGALURU: India recorded the world's highest daily tally of coronavirus cases for a second day in a row on Friday (Apr 23), while daily deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by a record.
With 332,730 new cases, India's total caseload has now passed 16 million.
Deaths rose by 2,263 to reach a total of 186,920, according to health ministry data.
The outbreak has been blamed on a new virus variant and lax government rules allowing huge religious and political gatherings to take place in recent months.
India's health care system has long suffered from under-funding and the new COVID-19 outbreak has seen critical shortages in oxygen, drugs and hospital beds, sparking desperate pleas for help.
"SOS - Less than an hour's oxygen supplies at Max Smart Hospital & Max Hospital Saket. Awaiting promised fresh supplies from INOX since 1 am... Over 700 patients admitted, need immediate assistance," Max Healthcare, one of the biggest private hospital chains, said on Twitter early Friday morning.
At least six hospitals ran out of oxygen supplies in the Indian capital late Thursday night, with several others left with just a few hours' worth.
"25 sickest patients have died in last 24 hrs Oxygen will last another 2 hrs... Major crisis likely. Lives of another 60 sickest patients at risk, need urgent intervention," the medical director of the Sir Gangaram Hospital in New Delhi said in a statement.
India has recorded around 4 million new infections this month alone, dashing hopes at the start of the year that the country may have weathered the worst of the pandemic.
Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan in the United States, said it was now as if there was no social safety net for Indians.
"Everyone is fighting for their own survival and trying to protect their loved ones. This is hard to watch," Mukherjee said.
Health experts say India became complacent during the winter, when daily cases were about 10,000 and seemed to be under control, and lifted restrictions to allow big gatherings.
"Indians let down their collective guard. Instead of being bombarded with messages exhorting us to be vigilant, we heard self-congratulatory declarations of victory from our leaders, now cruelly exposed as mere self-assured hubris," wrote Zarir F Udwadia, a pulmonologist and a member of the Maharashtra state government's task force, in the Times of India.
Canada has banned flights from India, joining Britain, United Arab Emirates and Singapore blocking arrivals.