The Indian city where 60% of the population has tested positive for coronavirus

This video contains distressing images

This week, India's coronavirus cases topped five million, the second highest Covid tally in the world after the United States. Worst hit is the state of Maharashtra, with more than one million cases.

In the latest figures, it has accounted for 474 of the 1,174 fatalities. ITV News reports from the worst affected city in the country, Pune where as many as 60% of the population are infectious.

Patients on the wards get some relief from oxygen tanks. Credit: ITV News

Pune is India’s 8th biggest city but when it comes to coronavirus it’s the nation’s worst affected.

Pune has more cases than India's sprawling metropolises Mumbai and Delhi (in contrast, 29% of the latter's population are affected).

The city's authorities have defended the large number of cases by saying high testing levels, at around 7,000 a day, are identifying more infections compared to the national picture.

  • Sudhir Mehta, a local businessman, has been been assisting officials in Pune tackle the crisis

But the full intensive care unit at Pune hospital, where ITV News filmed, points to more than just rigorous testing.

Many of the ward's occupants were finding it difficult to breathe, but medical staff said they were struggling to find enough supplies amid the rising tide of infections. It is a story replicated across the city.

ICUs are full and there are reportedly nearly 3,500 people on oxygen support.

Credit: ITV News

Dr Sameer Jog told ITV News: “There are other challenges like availability of resources, availability of ventilators and availability of oxygen.

"Sudden increase in the demand of oxygen, sudden demand in the increase of ventilators have arisen in parts of the country, so the demand supply challenge is another mismatch."

He said the risk to his staff offered fresh challenges too and warned the next six months look set to be as busy as the last, with new patients coming in from the surrounding areas.

But Dr Jog, despite the difficulties, says the hospital has so far managed to make it through the crisis so far.

Locals also say their record looks worse because they are more transparent with their figures, reigniting a debate about the true number of coronavirus cases in India.

But public health officials have accused the government of undercounting coronavirus deaths. Covid is not being listed as cause of death when known or even as pre Covid.

In India, recording mortality data was poor even before the pandemic struck.

Credit: ITV News

Of the 10 million estimated deaths each year, fewer than a quarter are fully documented, and only one-fifth of these are medically certified, according to national figures.

Abhijit Mitra and his family in New Dehli say he believes his father Narayan was among those who whose death was not counted among the coronavirus toll.

"I feel that they are hiding death records. Otherwise, why would they take my father so far away for cremation?"

"They (the government) are saying that my father died because of myasthenia (neurological disorder that causes muscle weakness), but they have cremated him according to COVID (19) protocol," he said.