Updated: Jun 17, 2021
While the United States is slowly recovering from the damages it’s faced this past year, India is facing a crisis of its own with another wave of COVID surging through the 1-billion populated country, this time being much deadlier than the last. Many shared the common notion that the virus would go away because of the country’s heat, but with the recent jump in virus fatalities in India, this unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the case. Dr. Fauci has even commented on the virus in India being “like a war” as the country continues to suffer with a deficit in oxygen supply, vaccines, and adequate hospital care.
The virus’ surge has pushed the healthcare system past it's breaking point just like it had in the US months ago. Many COVID-stricken patients are dying in their homes due to the simple fact that hospitals have no room for them and turn them away before even entering the ICU. There's also a scarcity in readily available ambulances so auto-rickshaws are being used as a last resort to transport patients to the nearest hospital. If they are lucky enough to have an available bed, patients go hours without being seen by a doctor or given any sort of treatment like oxygen. The shortage of supplies is so severe that patients are bringing their own to hospitals in desperate attempts of overcoming the virus.
Families are becoming frustrated as their loved ones pass from COVID since they knew that their family members could’ve had a better fighting chance had hospitals admitted them earlier, if at all. A rising trend in India is that when people pass from the virus, their deaths aren’t even properly accounted for, making the death toll appear much less than it actually is.
Makeshift crematoriums have overtaken streets with people gathering wood for the daily burning of bodies. So many bodies are being cremated that the temperature of the air has risen and the air quality has worsened due to all of the smoke and heat from the fires. With crematoriums filled to the brink, other bodies are being thrown into India’s Ganges river, a holy body of water observed by the Hindu culture.
The alarming surge, however, didn’t necessarily come as a surprise to the Indian people. In fact, doctors in the area have openly shared that they “knew this was coming” and most of the blame is falling on the nation’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. People are becoming increasingly enraged at his handling of the crisis since there have been countless events dubbed “superspreaders” like weddings, election rallies, and the Kumbh Mela festival in past months where maskless attendees end up contracting the virus, adding to the nation’s already-surmounting case numbers.
The different cultural lifestyle in India also had an impact on the ever growing crisis since mask-wearing, testing for the virus, and social distancing is not nearly as harshly enforced as it is in the States. Regardless, the government ignoring signs of an oncoming crisis now has people waiting on care and fighting for their lives.
All things considered, the CDC has determined India to now be the epicenter of the fatal virus with over 24 million cases of COVID, averaging roughly 4,000 deaths per day and a staggering 400,000 new cases daily as well. Countries like Japan, Iran, Australia, and the United States have all imposed travel bans regarding India in hopes of lessening potential viral entry from there. Already, the B.1.617.2 variant originating in India has devastated the country, and is now spreading to other nations.
While the United States has closed its borders to the Indian people, we are still helping them with open arms. Just two weeks ago, the US sent planes full of supplies (oxygen cylinders, N-95 masks, rapid test kits) upon direction from the Biden Administration. Vice President Kamala Harris who is of South Asian descent spoke about the crisis in India: “...we have a responsibility as the United States...to step up when people are in a time of need...we’re going to be sending...supplies...with an expectation that that will provide some level of relief.”
For India and much of the world right now, it seems that the virus’ hold on these areas will only get worse before it gets better.