KARACHI, Pakistan/NEW DELHI, India

Pakistan expressed solidarity with virus-ravaged India on Saturday as the world’s second most populous country reels under a devastating COVID-19 wave.

Single-day infections in India hit another global record of 346,786 on Saturday, with the daily death toll at 2,624.

The country’s overall tally is now over 16.6 million, including 189,544 fatalities.

A staggering surge in infections has kept India’s daily case count over 300,000 since Thursday, pushing the healthcare system to the verge of collapse and causing a crippling shortage of oxygen supply.

“I want to express our solidarity with the people of India as they battle a dangerous wave of COVID-19,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter.

“Our prayers for a speedy recovery go to all those suffering from the pandemic in our neighborhood and the world. We must fight this global challenge confronting humanity together.”

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, also posted a message of support on Twitter.

“We express our support to the people of India in the wake of the current wave of COVID-19 infections, that has hit our region hard. On behalf of the people of Pakistan, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to the affected families in India,” he said.

The pandemic, he added, is “yet another reminder that humanitarian issues require responses beyond political consideration.”

He said Pakistan continues to work with member states of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation – a regional intergovernmental organization – to foster cooperation to tackle the pandemic.

Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest humanitarian agency, on Friday offered to send a fleet of 50 ambulances and staff to help in India’s fight against the pandemic. New Delhi is yet to respond to the offer.

Oxygen emergency

The Indian government is scampering for solutions as dwindling oxygen supplies have been a major factor in the spike in COVID-19 fatalities.

Low oxygen pressure was cited as the cause for the deaths of over two dozen patients at hospitals in the capital New Delhi and Amritsar, a city in the northern state of Punjab, on Friday.

In the capital, 20 patients admitted to a critical care unit at Jaipur Golden Hospital died late on Friday night, a hospital official said on Saturday.

“The patients were in critical care and required high flow of oxygen … [but] the pressure of oxygen supply went down,” Dr. D.K. Baluja, a senior official at the hospital, told Anadolu Agency.

“Our oxygen supply came seven hours later than the scheduled time. Even then, we have only received 40% of our required amount.”

There were 348 fatalities recorded in New Delhi on Friday, the capital’s highest single-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

In Amritsar, an investigation has been launched after six patients died at a private hospital due to a shortage of oxygen, authorities said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under fire for the catastrophic COVID-19 situation throughout India, held a string of meetings with officials and oxygen manufacturers.

The government has decided to “grant full exemption from Basic Customs Duty and health cess on import” of certain items for “three months with immediate effect,” read a statement issued after a huddle on measures to increase supply of oxygen and related equipment on Saturday.

Late on Friday, India’s Home Ministry said the government was working to bring high-capacity tankers from countries such as Singapore and the UAE.

The tankers will be brought on Indian Air Force transport planes and will help speed up transportation of oxygen within the country, according to the ministry.

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