India needs 'war-time response' to tackle Covid-19 surge, says hospital group chief

Dr Azad Moopen urged Delhi to use the army to help manage the crisis

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An Indian healthcare chief said the country's resources need to be mobilised as if it were a "war situation".

Dr Azad Moopen, chairman of Aster DM Healthcare, which has clinics and hospitals across the UAE and India, called for the army to be brought in to help manage the Covid-19 surge.

India recorded more than 320,000 new cases on Tuesday, as much-needed medical supplies pour into the country.

"If we don't take really aggressive measures, like on a war footing, there could be a situation where there will be a lack of ICU beds, a lack of hospital beds and lack of healthcare professionals," he said on Dubai Eye's Business Breakfast programme.

We need to bring in the medical students, the nurses, the paramedics, every one into action, without waiting for all the approvals

“There is a requirement to improve all of this, so I see the army coming in.

“We need to bring in the medical students, the nurses, the paramedics, everyone into action, without waiting for all the approvals, because it is a war situation.”

Aster DM Healthcare has 15 hospitals, more than ten clinics and a medical college in India, as well as hundreds of pharmacies and dozens of medical centres in the UAE.

All Aster hospitals in India, plus 1,000 beds in its medical college, are available to deal with coronavirus cases, but oxygen shortages are proving deadly for patients struggling to breathe.

“We are doing whatever is possible to help. I have been running around to see if there is an opportunity to get [an] oxygen supply, but understand that it can't be transported,” said Dr Moopen.

“The most important thing people can do here is to instruct people in India to remain at home, and also to see that they wear masks and take all the precautions.

“Even immunised people, everybody for that matter, should be taking care, because we don't know what this mutant will do to even immunised people.

“Don't be complacent – they have to take care of that.”

Fear of double mutant strain

The Indian health ministry reported another 2,771 deaths in the past 24 hours, with roughly 115 people succumbing to the disease every hour.

Experts say even these figures are probably an undercount.

The UAE has sent six oxygen containers and a flight from the UK brought crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators, while the US, Germany, Israel, France and Pakistan have also promised medical aid.

The situation differs across India, with Maharashtra and Mumbai the epicentre, said Dr Moopen, who originally hails from Kerala, in the south.

“The overall preparedness is different in different states," he said.

"In Kerala, there are large numbers, but when you look at the mortality and the preparedness, it is much better. The death rates are very low, less than 0.2 [per cent].

“But the numbers are increasing everywhere because this is the new mutant which has come in.”

More than 135 million people in India have been vaccinated so far, around 10 per cent of the population, and many of them are healthcare workers.

Oxygen rushed to worst-hit spots by train