‘Entire families’ wiped out in rural India amid Covid

New Delhi: After devastating India’s biggest cities, the latest Covid-19 wave is now ravaging rural areas across the world’s second-most populous country. And most villages have no way to fight the virus, reports Bloomberg.

In Basi, about 1.5 hours from the capital New Delhi, about three-quarters of the village’s 5,400 people are sick and more than 30 have died in the past three weeks. It has no healthcare facilities, no doctors, and no oxygen canisters. And unlike India’s social-media literate urban population, residents can’t appeal on Twitter to an army of strangers willing to help.

“Most deaths in the village have been caused because there was no oxygen available,” said Sanjeev Kumar, the newly elected head of the farming community. “The sick are being rushed to the district headquarters and those extremely sick patients have to travel about four hours,” he was quoted as saying in the Bloomberg report, adding that many don’t make it in time.

It’s a scenario playing out all over India. In interviews with representatives from more than 18 towns and villages in different parts of the country, officials outlined the scale of the carnage — from entire families wiped out to bloated bodies floating down the Ganges River to farmland left untended due to a lack of workers.

Many people said the scale of the crisis is much bigger than official numbers reveal, with villagers afraid to leave their homes even if they have fevers and local authorities failing to properly record virus fatalities. India reported 274,390 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Health Ministry.

As leaders in Delhi struggle to contain the crisis, horrifying scenes are playing out across India. Last week in the eastern state of Bihar, residents woke up to find as many as 70 bloated bodies floating in the Ganges River. With crematoriums overflowing as the death toll surges, they feared these bodies were Covid victims whose families could not properly lay them to rest. More corpses have since been reported along the river.

In Punjab, a northern state bordering Pakistan, local authorities are asking volunteers among India’s one-million-strong Accredited Social Health Activists to visit every house to urge people to get vaccinated and see if anyone has a fever. While the group is well known for working in harsh conditions to deliver childhood immunizations and basic first aid to villages, the scale of the current crisis is unprecedented, said Balbir, one of the workers.

“Many people are so scared they are not even telling anyone about their fever,” she said, asking to be identified by only her first name due to fear of a backlash from local authorities in Ludhiana district, where infections are spreading rapidly. “Despite such a huge surge, they have still not given us adequate protection: no masks, no gloves, nothing.”

Image courtesy of thesatimes | Welcome to The South Asian Times

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