The deaths were reported by officials in the state’s Chamarajanagar district. They admitted that there had been a shortage overnight but said that not all the deaths were “necessarily” due to oxygen scarcity, and that investigations were ongoing.
“It's not appropriate to say that all the 24 deaths happened due to oxygen shortage. These deaths had happened from Sunday morning to this [Monday] morning. The oxygen shortage happened ... [between] 12.30am [and] 2.30am,” said Chamarajanagar district in-charge minister S Suresh Kumar, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.
Mr Kumar said he had ordered an audit report and that it would reveal the exact cause of death.
“As per doctors’ report, 12 died due to lack of oxygen and others succumbed to various comorbidities and underlying medical conditions,” Chamarajanagar deputy commissioner Dr M R Ravi told The Times of India. He said that while 23 people died in a district hospital, one person died at a private facility.
Karnataka’s chief minister, B S Yediyurappa, has spoken to the district collector and called an emergency meeting for Tuesday.
Angry family members gathered outside the hospital and alleged that there was a shortage of oxygen.
Mr Kumar said he told officials to find a permanent solution for the supply of oxygen to the district. “There indeed is a problem in Mysuru [Mysore] but that should not hinder the supply of oxygen from Mysuru to Chamarajanagar,” he said, according to PTI.
The administration in the neighbouring Mysuru district said that there was no delay on its part and a supply of 250 oxygen cylinders had been sent to Chamarajanagar by midnight on Sunday.
On Sunday, Karnataka reported 37,733 new Covid-19 cases over the previous 24 hours, and 217 deaths. Across India as a whole, 368,147 new cases were reported on Monday over the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of Covid infections in the country to 19.93 million.
Several hospitals across the country have reported a shortage of medical supplies and beds. Twelve patients, including a doctor, died amid an oxygen shortage at a hospital in Delhi on Saturday.