NEW DELHI — Just a few months ago, the southwestern state of Goa was welcoming tourists from across the rest of India who were drawn to its picture-perfect beaches, an ideal source of relief from coronavirus rules in other regions.
Group celebrations, many without masks, were common. Life appeared to have gone back to normal.
But it did not last.
With India in the grip of a devastating coronavirus outbreak, 26 people died at the state-run Goa Medical College and Hospital on Tuesday morning, possibly because of an oxygen shortage, one official said.
“Due to interrupted supply of oxygen, we feel that between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. many people are dying in G.M.C.,” the health minister for Goa, Vishwajit Rane, told The Times of India. He also called for a High Court inquiry to investigate the cause of the deaths.
Goa reported 75 deaths in total on Tuesday, its highest daily toll of the pandemic, and there were over 32,800 new daily infections in the state, which has a population of about 1.5 million. Officially, India has surpassed 250,000 total reported deaths from Covid.
Contradicting the health minister, Pramod Sawant, Goa’s chief minister, who visited the hospital, said that there was “no scarcity” and that the state had “abundant supplies of oxygen.” Mr. Rane said the chief minister might be “misguided.”
Goa has been reporting one of the highest infection rates in the country for at least a week.
Mr. Rane said in an interview with CNN last week, “Opening up of tourism without any restrictions in December has led to this situation.”
Goa has also created headlines for approving the use of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug, in the treatment and prevention of Covid-19. The World Health Organization has said that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the drug reduces mortality in coronavirus patients.
On Monday, Mr. Rane announced on Twitter that the state government would make the drug available for everyone over 18 as a prophylactic.
Patients will be treated with ivermectin for a period of five days, Mr. Rane said, adding that the government would make the drug available at hospitals and primary health centers for people to “start the treatment immediately, irrespective of any symptoms.”
The W.H.O. has warned against the use of the drug, except in clinical trials.
“Safety and efficacy are important when using any drug for a new indication,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the W.H.O. chief scientist, in a post about ivermectin on Tuesday.