Beware, experts warned last November, of a more virulent spell of the pandemic. Prepare for the eventuality, they advised, by stockpiling medical oxygen. Their admonition wasn’t heeded. Covid has been beaten back, promised the leaders in blithe assurance; the masses took their cue from this misplaced confidence. The dam broke in April, engulfing the country in crisis. Health infrastructure was overwhelmed, while one article, or rather its acute scarcity, stood as a visual shorthand for the tragic misery of the second wave: oxygen, and the weather-beaten cylinders that carry it. People gasped and gulped for breath; some did not make it, leaving near ones forever scarred by their final, painful hours. Here we narrate the stories of nine victims whose lives could have been saved by the oxygen they never received. Their last, anguished cries should be a deterrent against complacency.
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