India orders states to ensure unimpeded oxygen supplies as coronavirus cases hit 5.2m

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a woman, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a vegetable market, in New Delhi, India, September 18, 2020. REUTERS
India ordered its states not to hoard oxygen supplies and allow free movement amidst reports of shortages, as novel coronavirus infections hit 5.2 million on Friday, edging the country's tally closer to the United States, which is the worst-hit globally.

India, which recorded 96,424 new infections in the last 24 hours, has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August, according to a Reuters tally.

Oxygen supply has become scarce in some parts of India, government officials and experts said, putting critical healthcare at risk.

"Any impediment in the supplies of medical oxygen in the country may critically impact the management of patients suffering from COVID-19 disease," the federal home ministry said in a circular late on Friday.

"There shall be free movement of oxygen carrying vehicles into the cities, without any restriction of timings, while also enabling inter-city supply without restriction," it said.

Deaths in India have been relatively low, and it has a fatality rate of 1.62%. On Friday, the health ministry said 1,174 people died of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, taking total deaths from the disease to 84,372.