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the coronavirus crisis

More than 30 countries could face oxygen crises similar to India amid COVID-19 surges

As COVID-19 cases surge in many countries, several could face oxygen shortages similar to India's.

The "key indicator" of a looming crisis is often not how much oxygen is needed at the moment, but how swiftly demand is rising, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports. The Bureau looked at Laos as an example. The southeast Asian nation's current oxygen need is modest at 2,124 cubic meters per day, but that's a "nearly 200-fold increase from mid-March."

All told, data collected by the Bureau shows that more than 30 countries, including Fiji, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Angola, and Kyrgyzstan, now need at least twice as much oxygen — one of the most crucial treatments for severe COVID-19 infections — as they did two months ago.

Activists told the Bureau the trend could lead to the "total collapse of health systems" in lower- to middle-income countries. Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar could be particularly vulnerable because they rely on Indian-made oxygen and equipment. "You'd imagine if they start to see peaks [in infections] of the same degree [as India], then it could be even worse, because India needs all the [oxygen] supply," said Zachary Katz, the vice president of essential medicines at the Clinton Health Access Initiative. Read more at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.