Sikh temple opens hospital to help India fight coronavirus wave

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NEW DELHI, May 10 (Reuters) - A prominent Sikh temple opened a hospital in the Indian capital New Delhi on Monday to help the country's overstretched health system cope with a surging second wave of the coronavirus.

The temple, known as Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, located in New Delhi's main government district, will provide 400 beds equipped with oxygen, said Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh temple management committee.

As the second wave strains healthcare resources, Sikh temples are increasingly setting up hospitals and providing oxygen and ambulances.

A severe shortage of oxygen has led to many deaths in India, which on Monday reported 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths, close to record daily highs. read more

Another Sikh temple, which has been at the forefront of providing free oxygen to coronavirus patients, is set to open a hospital on the outskirts of New Delhi.

"We are going to open a new hospital this week and set up three new centres where patients will receive free oxygen. We are also planning to set up hospitals and oxygen supply centres in Bengaluru," Gurpreet Singh Rummy, president of Indirapuram Gurudwara, said, referring to India's software capital in the south.

The Sikh religious community, known for offering food from communal kitchens at temples, has been swift to offer help because it has a history of voluntary service, said Ravi Singh, chief executive of London-based Khalsa Aid.

As Sikhs - a relatively wealthy community - are encouraged to donate 10% of their income to charity, Singh said there's hardly any major resource crunch.

Singh said committed volunteers do a better job than most government agencies, explaining how Sikh temples have managed to offer oxygen to patients even as hospitals have struggled.

"Every day, our volunteers travel hundreds of kilometres to fetch oxygen for critical patients, and you can't expect such zeal from most government bodies," said Rummy.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Giles Elgood

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