As India’s capital Delhi continues to see rising coronavirus cases put stress on the medical system, local communities and residential complexes are stepping in to buy oxygen cylinders, pulse oximeters and even ventilators for residents.
Delhi is one of India’s worst-affected cities in the pandemic, with 62,655 Covid-19 cases and 2,233 deaths.
At Ambica Co-Op Housing Building Society in Paschim Vihar in West Delhi, at least eight of its residents, who number about 600, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two men, both above the age of 75, have died.
The resident welfare association (RWA) governing the complex has bought three home oxygen converters and four oxygen cylinders, and ordered 100 portable oxygen cans for its residents.
In India, RWAs manage the daily running of their residential areas.
“A main problem is when people need oxygen. So we were able to help out six to seven residents when they needed oxygen. We have placed the equipment in a large hall (in the complex). Whenever someone phones for it, we send it across and explain to them how to use it,” said Mr Lokesh Munjal, RWA president for the society. “In Delhi, cases are going up day by day. We have to do something at our level,” he added.
Delhi, which has a population of 19 million, has recorded tales of desperate scrambles for intensive care unit beds, patients being forced to go to multiple hospitals to seek admission, and long queues at crematoriums.
The city’s government has forecast that it will have 500,000 cases by the end of next month.
It has also said that Covid-19 patients who are in home quarantine can call a government helpline for free pulse oximeters or oxygen cylinders if needed.
The outbreak in India, which has more than 440,000 cases, is expected to peak as late as mid-November.
India has the world’s fourth-highest number of confirmed cases, but World Health Organisation experts have noted that the numbers are still not alarming, given the country’s population of 1.35 billion.
A spiritual centre in the capital city, described in Indian media reports as being larger than 22 football fields, has been converted into a Covid-19 facility with 10,000 beds.
Hospital beds have also been set up in 40 hotels, 77 banquet halls and 500 railway coaches.
Doctors have advised people to take as many precautions as they can at the local level.
“The ground reality is that we are expecting the numbers to increase every day, and what I think is that RWAs and local medical bodies have to play the role of an extended family,” said Dr Sandeep Sharma, a radiologist and president of the Indian Medical Association’s South Delhi branch.
“I believe it gives you not only confidence, but also comfort that there are people around. It is the need of the hour.”
At Nizamuddin West neighbourhood in Central Delhi, the RWA is training security guards and some residents on how to use oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrates.
The RWA has also bought a bilevel positive airway pressure machine, which pushes air into the lungs, for more serious cases within the 750-family neighbourhood.
“We have a few doctors who have formed a group for emergencies and to guide residents on the use of oxygen,” said Mr Kamaal Akhtar, vice-president of the neighbourhood’s RWA.
“In this current scenario, it is necessary.”