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Desperate COVID-19 Victims in India Turn to Makeshift Oxygen Tents; South America Battling Record-Breaking Virus Wave; Crush at Religious Festival at Israel's Mt. Meron Kills 45. Aired 12-12:15a ET

Aired May 1, 2021 - 00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, welcome everyone, to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes and, I want to get to our top story for you now.

Tons of medically needed equipment, beginning to arrive in India, as it struggles with the COVID-19 catastrophe, worsening by the day. An aggressive new vaccination drive, across India, supposed to begin in the coming hours.


HOLMES (voice-over): And you can see here, people are already lining up. Many locations say they don't have enough vials to get started and what many victims need is oxygen to stay alive. With hospitals overwhelmed, some desperate patients are turning elsewhere. CNN's Sam Kiley with the story.



SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sensor reveals dangerously low levels of oxygen, stifled by COVID-19, this canister of gas buys this patient time.

All of these patients arrive barely able to breathe. This isn't a medical clinic. It's a tent on the outskirts of India's capital, run by volunteers.

KILEY: Without the initiative being shown by these volunteers from the Hemkunt Foundation, who are providing oxygen on the street, on the outskirts of Delhi, they say many dozens, perhaps over 100 patients, would be in deep trouble medically now.

They already had one death, just over there, earlier on today. They treated over 100 people who are coming in, desperate for oxygen, unable to breathe. And it's all about this, the supply of these oxygen cylinders. It's a 300-mile drive each way to get one of these filled and brought back to Delhi.

KILEY (voice-over): They cost about $25 when filled.

KILEY: How easy has it been to found oxygen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, trust me, this is the toughest thing, we have to say.

KILEY (voice-over): With COVID-19 infections and numbers of deaths breaking records daily in India, many patients in Delhi have given up on hospital treatment, where they know that oxygen is scarce and beds often shared.

Pankaj Chandrawal said he was turned away by three hospitals. He took off his oxygen mask, demanding to be heard.

PANKAJ CHANDRAWAL, COVID-19 PATIENT: They are just not entertaining anything and they're just refusing all things. I cannot tell whom I can believe. It is both government and the hospitals also.

KILEY (voice-over): Bottled oxygen is mostly produced outside Delhi. Neighboring states are prioritizing their own needs. And so the city gasps. And many die, unrecorded, in their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

KILEY (voice-over): Tijinder Gutji (ph) collects the bodies of patients who die at home. He'll pick up three in this one-hour run. Many are even afraid to take their dying loved ones to hospital.

Prashant Sharma's family decided to keep his grandmother at home.

PRASHANT SHARMA, GRANDSON OF COVID-19 VICTIM: We were scared. (INAUDIBLE). So we got scared if we cannot do any nearby hospital, who's going to (INAUDIBLE)? You know, who's going to give us the information, exactly the information what is (INAUDIBLE) in the hospital?

KILEY (voice-over): India's government has promised a vaccination campaign with renewed vigor. But with around only 2 percent of the nation inoculated so far, that's cold comfort here -- Sam Kiley, CNN, Delhi.


HOLMES: I spoke a short time ago with Dr. Venkat Narayan, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Emory University in Atlanta. We talked about the impact that the second wave is having on India's poor and why providing aid is so important.



DR. VENKAT NARAYAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY: We're now experiencing about a hundred thousand cases a day, reported cases. The real numbers are probably 8-10 times. And the pandemic has not peaked. You know, all the models project that it will peak by middle of May or end of May. It could be 800,000 cases a day or even 1 million cases a day.

And the question about the poor being vulnerable is absolutely correct and that is true across the world. Even here in the United States, the most vulnerable are the socioeconomic disadvantaged people.

And you've had for example, in phase I of our vaccination, was 70 percent of Blacks were eligible for it. But only about 5 percent have received the vaccinations. So this is a problem everywhere.

And I think that this is something that Indian government really needs to take seriously, to preferentially address, you know, availability (ph) of services to the poor and the underserved.

This pandemic cannot be won unless we are equitable in our delivery of services to everybody.

HOLMES: India is home to 18 percent of the world's population. We've seen what's now known as the Indian variant spread to 17 other countries. Speak to the fact that what happens in India matters to the rest of the world. The virus does not respect borders.

This is a global imperative to get things under control in India, right?

NARAYAN: Absolutely. As you said, India has about a fifth of the world's population so it's a country that holds a fifth of humanity. And as you will see from the scenes across India, what's happening in India is extremely painful and has touched people across the world.

So it's a humanitarian crisis, with which we all share a common responsibility. So that should raise global consciousness toward action against India so that we also make sure that these types of things don't happen in the other parts of world we all prepared (ph).

But aside from the humanitarian issue, which is extremely important, there are other considerations to take into account. For example, the virus does not respect borders. There are 17 countries in the world that have received the variant from India.

So this can easily spread. So it's in the interest of everybody to take care of India. I don't think India is alone in all this. I don't think any country is alone in this fight against the pandemic.

We have to work together and collaborate together. And beyond all, this the size of India is very important to the global economy. And for global security. If something was to go wrong with India, it can be a disaster for the global economy and for global security.


HOLMES: The dire situation is prompting the U.S. government to restrict travel from India. Those restrictions will begin this coming Tuesday. The policy will not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Humanitarian workers are also exempt.

International travelers must test negative prior to leaving the country, quarantine if they have not been vaccinated and test negative again upon reentering the U.S. from India.

All of this coming as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 100 million people in the U.S. are now fully vaccinated, more than 30 percent of the population. And there has been an 80 percent drop in the 7-day average of new deaths since the January peak.

Four hundred body bags on one of the world's most famous speeches. A nonprofit laid them down on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in memory of all of those who lost their lives to COVID in Brazil.

The country has become only the second in the world to report more than 400,000 deaths. The U.S. being the other, of course. Now Brazil's health minister is asking for assistance, as journalist Stefano Pozzebon explains.


STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A call for help: on Friday, the Brazilian health minister urged other countries across the world with extra vaccine doses, such as the United States, to share them with Brazil, as the South American giant tries dramatically to curb the spread of yet another COVID-19 wave that is wreaking havoc across South America.

This week, Brazil became just the second country on Earth to formally cross the threshold of over 400,000 victims of the virus. One in every 526 Brazilians died since the beginning of the pandemic.

And it's a situation shared with many other countries across the region, from Argentina, to Colombia, to Peru, to Uruguay, all reporting record increases in new cases and deaths this past week as the new wave is really devastating the region.

Some hope perhaps at the end of the tunnel could come when, yet again, from the vaccine. This week, Brazil received the first shipment of the Pfizer BioNTech laboratory.


POZZEBON: With over one million doses of the vaccine that will help health officials to front (ph) up the virus.

And here in Colombia, starting next week, citizens aged 60 years old or older will be finally able to receive the precious jab -- for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


HOLMES: Israel in mourning after the tragedy struck in a religious gathering on Friday morning; 45 people killed in a stampede at a crowded festival on Mt. Meron; 150 others were injured. Two Canadians, several Americans among the dead.

U.S. President Joe Biden offering his condolences in a statement saying, quote, "The loss of life among worshippers practicing their faith is heartbreaking. I've instructed my team to offer our assistance to the government and people of Israel as they respond to that disaster and care for the wounded."

CNN's Hadas Gold with more on how a celebration quickly turned into chaos.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A crumpled pair of glasses. Water bottles, flattened and scattered on the ground. These are the trampled remnants of a festival in Israel, where dozens of people were crushed to death in a stampede, according to the Israeli health ministry.

Tens of thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews, gathered at Mt. Meron for the religious bonfire festival Lag B'Omer. The witnesses say the night quickly turned into a tragedy, when packed crowds crammed into a narrow passageway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was there exactly when it happened. Now there on the side. It started when a few paramedics started to run and then there was some kind of mess, police screaming, big mess.

And after half an hour, it looked like a scene of a suicide bombing attack.

GOLD: What happened around 1:00 am when tens of thousands of worshipers were celebrating the Lag B'Omer holiday, crowds of people were trying to exit and enter along this ramp right here. They started to slip and slide all over each other, turning into a table of bodies.

GOLD (voice-over): Officials say, some people were asphyxiated, others were crushed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Most parts of my body got pinned down under several people, except for my head and chest. So I can still breathe. I think it is a miracle I survived.

GOLD (voice-over): Funerals began Friday afternoon for the victims, some of whom, were children. Israeli media says bonfire areas were cordoned off as a COVID-19 precaution. And this may have created bottlenecks in the walkways. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it's one of the worst disasters in Israeli history.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (voice-over): We will carry out a comprehensive, serious, detailed investigation, to ensure this kind of disaster never happens again.

GOLD (voice-over): The prime minister saying, this Sunday will be a national day of mourning -- Hadas Gold, CNN, Mt. Meron, Israel.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Stay tuned for "MARKETPLACE AFRICA." We'll see you a little later.