Patients choke New Delhi hospitals amid toxic smog

Hospitals in New Delhi reported a spike in the number of patients with respiratory ailments... and doctors on Tuesday blamed a surge of air pollution blanketing India's capital.

Doctor Bobby Balotra sees patients at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

"One (type) is a fresh case of respiratory ailments where patient gives a history of exposure to prolonged pollution exposure, or a post-COVID recovering patient. They are also coming in big numbers because of the pollution."

The city, home to 20 million, is often ranked the world's most polluted capital, due to coal-fired energy plants and burning garbage out in the open.

The burning of rice paddy straw also contributes to pollution in winter.

New Delhi has battled a toxic haze since earlier this month, but this week took emergency measures, shutting down schools and construction work for four days.

As air quality plummeted, the Supreme Court ordered measures to halt non-essential vehicle traffic, cut industrial pollution and limit dust. The Court also told authorities to shut offices in New Delhi and nearby cities and allow millions of people to work from home.

But not everyone can. Food vendors are forced to breath the harsh air and endure burning eyes to make a living.

"We have to come with our stalls in any weather, because it is our livelihood. The pollution is unbearable, the government must take some steps. We are forced to work because we can't stay indoors forever."

The Air Quality Index in New Delhi on Monday touched 403 out of 500, indicating "severe" conditions that can cause respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.

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