Many of you have probably seen infographics on your Instagram stories with big, bold titles like “SO, WHAT’S HAPPENING IN INDIA RIGHT NOW?” Or maybe you’ve seen the Bingo Boards with everyone tagging their friends to donate to Oxygen for India. Either way, if you keep up with world news, you should know that India is currently suffering a deadly second wave of COVID-19 cases. Although this article is not as aesthetically pleasing or as brief as an Instagram Story graphic or a Venmo Bingo Board, the content is just as important. This piece is also important to me on a personal level. India is where I was born and where all of my extended family continues to live. My family and I speak Telugu, an Indian language. We eat and cook Indian food every day. I practice Carnatic music, a form of classical Indian music, and play the veena, a classical Indian string instrument. We wear Indian clothing and celebrate Indian holidays every month. Its culture has raised and shaped me into the woman I am today and will continue to be.
So, what is happening in India right now?
A lethal second wave of the novel coronavirus has been sweeping the nation with over 300,000 cases a day, making up 50% of the world’s daily COVID-19 cases. 17.9 million people have been infected and over 200,000 people have died.
Earlier this year, cases were actually dwindling. While other countries like New Zealand completely lifted their restrictions after a staggering low number of cases, India also eased up on their lockdown protocols. Many people have gone back to attending large gatherings, such as political rallies and religious festivities, maskless and without proper distancing, even though the majority of the population is unvaccinated. On top of that, India has been exposed to multiple coronavirus variants, such as the B.1.617 variant, which is now in 44 countries, as well as the B.1.1.7 variant, the deadliest of the COVID-19 strains.
With this rapid increase in cases, hospitals in India have become overwhelmed. Many do not have enough beds, ventilators, medicine, coronavirus tests or oxygen for patients, as well as an insufficient supply of protective equipment for health care workers. Supplies can take days to ship across the country, and unfortunately for many patients, they don’t have that kind of time. Train carriages and sports stadiums have become makeshift hospital wards, and beds are being made out of cardboard to attend to the public’s high demand for medical attention. As hospitals struggle to care for their patients at full capacity, the unattended wait outside hospitals for a spot to open up, already struggling to take care at home due to the lack of resources.
As a result of the United States’ vaccine export ban, India falls even more behind on vaccine production. Not only does this affect India’s population but also other countries who depend on India’s supply for vaccines, as India is currently one of the largest vaccine distributors in the world.
My entire extended family lives in India. Some of my aunts and uncles who have tested positive must figure out how to quarantine at home while taking care of their infant children. Hospitals do not have room to admit my grandmother as a patient, so she is left to rely on at-home care. My mother has to stay glued to her phone on WhatsApp to keep up with messages from her family. Friends of ours have lost loved ones due to this ongoing crisis.
So, how can we help?
Many organizations are seeking donations to purchase supplies for hospitals across India. If you have the means, please consider donating.
Spread the word.
Many people are unaware of just how serious this humanitarian crisis is, so simply raising awareness is helpful. However, be mindful of what you are sharing. Many public areas have been turned into mass cremation grounds. Many of the popular Instagram infographics show pictures of these mass cremation grounds which are very triggering to some individuals. Cremations are sacred and private for the families of those who were lost, yet their pictures are currently running rampant in global news outlets. Some Instagram infographics showcase these pictures as well with titles like “WHY YOU SHOULD CARE.” People shouldn’t need a picture of hundreds of people dying in one concentrated area without a proper ritual in order to care about a humanitarian crisis as large as this one. The information presented should be enough for people to act.
Do your part to combat the virus.
Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Social distance. Get tested frequently. Our small actions can go a long way in eradicating this virus.
In the United States, many are choosing not to get vaccinated, which is a privilege in and of itself. I know many unvaccinated people returning to normal life, traveling around the country, partying with their friends, maskless, while men and women in my home country can’t even find care and are left to die in the street without a proper cremation. Some of these same people have called this virus the “Kung Flu,” and believe the vaccine is being used by the government in some sort of grand conspiracy scheme. Many of my friends and I have talked about this feeling of “survivor’s guilt.” I’m lucky enough to say that my family members here in the United States have all been vaccinated. We are able to travel together, go back to work in our respective offices and return to our day-to-day lives. Meanwhile, my cousin who is my age tested positive for COVID-19 and is relying on quarantining at home with my grandparents who have also tested positive while also balancing college courses online. My family and I have the means to combat and protect ourselves from the virus, but families in India do not. Every headline I read, every WhatsApp message my mother receives about another family member testing positive and every anti-vaccination post I see on my social media feeds adds on to this “survivor’s guilt,” but it also gives me this urge to spread awareness and drill the fact that we’re all responsible in ending this pandemic.
We are all responsible for fighting this virus, and with new reports that ruled out the possibility of herd immunity, we may end up just like India.
MiC Columnist Smarani Komanduri may be contacted at email@example.com.