UP's COVID-19 Victims Have Been Left to Fend for Themselves

Beyond giving oral warnings to blackmarketeers, the chief minister has done little to streamline oxygen supply.

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath may be issuing warnings after warnings, but the defiant killer pandemic continues to take its toll all across the state.

Yet another major hospital – Integral Medical University – expressed its inability to treat oxygen-dependent patients for much longer on Wednesday evening. While conveying this to the principal secretary (medical education) on Wednesday, the Integral authorities urged the government to help them replenish their oxygen stocks. The suspension of oxygen supply is likely to jeopardise the treatment of at least 120 COVID-19 patients currently admitted there, the hospital said.

But what has made matters worse for the common people is the chief minister’s diktat to stop the supply of oxygen cylinders to individuals. That leaves at God’s mercy, hundreds of COVID-19 victims undergoing home treatment. No one knows how they will survive in the absence of oxygen. “My mother, who has tested coronavirus positive four days ago, could not get a bed in any hospital, so I managed to somehow procure an oxygen cylinder and get her treated at home only. Since yesterday, I had been running for a refill but could not succeed, with the result that I finally lost my mother today,” 35-year-old Rajul Jaiswal told The Wire, in tears.

Intervention by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has finally led the government to do away with its policy of routing admission of all COVID-19 patients through the district chief medical officer, bringing the much desired relief to common people. The SHRC had taken serious note of complaints about patients dying in search of the CMO’s reference. Thus, a patient is now entitled to directly approach any hospital for admission.

Also read: In Ghaziabad and Other Districts, Data on Ground Disproves UP’s ‘Zero COVID Deaths’ Claim

Meanwhile, the depletion of oxygen in two private hospitals on Tuesday was followed in at least four others on Wednesday – Maxwell, Charak, Chandan and Integral hospitals – posing serious threat to the lives of many. And no one knows when the oxygen supply will stabilise.

Even the city’s top corporate hospital, Medanta, Complained about the depleting oxygen back-up. “Our existing stock will not last more than 24 hours,” said Medanta director Dr Rakesh Kapoor.

Consistent oxygen supply – which is believed to be the most effective armour to fight the COVID-19 onslaught – continued to remain a distant cry, both in government as well as in private hospitals in most parts of the state. But the situation remained the worst in the state capital, where hundreds of people have died of the disease in the past few days. Blackmarketeering in oxygen cylinders continued blatantly in most parts of the state, even as the chief minister repeats his oral threats for deterrent punishment. Why the state government could not create regulated outlets for the sale of oxygen cylinders, no one knows.

For those who had the misfortune of experiencing the infamous Bhopal gas tragedy, gasping for oxygen was a chilling reminder of the 1984 ordeal. “The only difference was that in Bhopal, people were getting choking on leaked poisonous gas and here people are suffocating to death in the absence of their lifeline, oxygen,” said Mukesh Hajela, a former journalist.

Undue efforts of some mandarins to falsely project low counts have not helped as crematoriums, cremation grounds and graveyards are overflowing with bodies of those who were unable to arm themselves to battle it out with the deadly virus.

The official machinations have also not helped to contain the rising count of fresh cases, which shot up to an all-time high of 34,379 on Wednesday, taking the total number of active cases on date to 2,59,810.

Alleged fudging in the death toll continued to remain glaringly visible once again. Thus, as against an official declaration of just 21 deaths in Lucknow, the number of cremations of COVID-19 bodies at Lucknow’s main cremation ground – Bhainsakund – stood at 103 late on Wednesday evening. Considering that the statewide death toll was officially stated to be only 195, how many had actually died on account of the pandemic is anybody’s guess.