Police in India’s capital Delhi have asked local authorities to identify more sites for cremations.
A ferocious second wave is ravaging parts of India, overwhelming hospitals, morgues and crematoriums.
The total number of Covid cases passed 18 million on Thursday with 386,452 infections recorded – the biggest one-day increase on record for any country.
More than 390 deaths were in Delhi, the highest the capital has ever seen in a single day since the pandemic began.
“Deaths in the city are mostly related to Covid and due to shortage of space, people are being forced to cremate their loved ones in crematoriums not designated to take victims of Covid. That’s why we suggested more crematoriums should be set up,” a senior Delhi police officer said according to the NDTV news channel.
Oxygen, medicine and hospital beds continue to be in short supply, with people making pleas on social media to find some for their loved ones.
India’s central government is facing mounting criticism of its handling of the pandemic, and for allowing election rallies and religious festivals to go ahead.
But the health minister defended the government on Thursday, saying the country’s fatality rate is the lowest in the world and that oxygen supplies were “adequate”.
Harsh Vardhan told ANI news agency that oxygen was now “being made available from many sources” including those from abroad, and that storage and cryogenic tankers were also being prepared.
Experts say lockdowns and vaccinations are the only way out.
On Saturday, all adults above the age of 18 in India will become eligible for vaccination. But although India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, it does not have enough stocks for the estimated 800 million people who will become eligible.
Multiple states are already reporting shortages of the vaccine.
The municipal commissioner of Mumbai, Ashwini Bhide, said on Twitter that the city would reserve current stocks for people aged over 45 years old.