NEW DELHI: Gasping for air, two men wearing oxygen masks share a bed in a government hospital in India's capital New Delhi, victims of the country's growing COVID-19 crisis.
From reporting under 10,000 new daily cases earlier this year, daily infections crossed 200,000 on Thursday (Apr 15), according to official data, the highest anywhere in the world.
At Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, one of India's largest coronavirus-only facilities with more than 1,500 beds, a stream of ambulances ferried patients to the overflowing casualty ward on Thursday.
Some also arrived in buses and three-wheeled auto rickshaws.
The youngest patient was a newborn baby.
"We are definitely over-burdened. We are already working at full capacity," said the hospital's medical director, Suresh Kumar.
From an initial 54 beds, the hospital now has more than 300 for COVID-19 patients in critical condition. Even that is not enough.
Unrelated patients share beds, while bodies of the recently deceased lie outside the ward before being taken to the mortuary.
"Today we have 158 admissions in Lok Nayak alone," Kumar said. Almost all were severe cases.
After imposing one of the world's strictest lockdowns for nearly three months last year, India's government relaxed almost all curbs by the beginning of 2021, although many regions have now introduced localised restrictions.
Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital's Kumar said fast-spreading new variants that evade testing were adding to the burden, as was human behaviour as the country reopened.
"People are not following the COVID guidelines," he said. "They are just careless."
Outside the hospital's mortuary, weeping relatives gathered in the hot sun to wait for the bodies of loved ones to be released.