Seven COVID-19 patients have died in northwestern Pakistan due to a shortage of oxygen supply, local officials and medics say, as hospitals in the country are struggling to cope with a second wave of the outbreak.
Officials say an inquiry has been ordered into the incident, which took place overnight in Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) in the city of Peshawar.
“There was an incident at KTH last night involving a shortage of oxygen supply. I have directed the BoG (Board of Governors) to conduct an immediate inquiry and take action within 48 hours," the health minister of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, of which Peshawar is the capital, tweeted early on December 6.
A KTH spokesperson said that oxygen cylinders could not reach the hospital on time to avoid the tragedy.
The facility receives oxygen from Rawalpindi, some 150 kilometers east of Peshawar.
New infections are steadily increasing in Pakistan, which has reported more than 3,000 daily new cases since the beginning of the month.
Overall, the country has recorded more than 416,00 cases, with over 8,300 related deaths.
Describing the situation as “critical,” Sajjd Qasier, secretary-general of the Pakistani Medical Association, said that the country’s hospitals have been filled up by seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
"A new patient gets a bed if he is lucky or a patient is discharged," Qasier said.
The Pakistani government last month ordered the closure of all educational institutions across the country and imposed lockdowns in virus hot spots.