Covid-19 ravages Indian villages

The pandemic swept through the nooks and crannies of Banail village, Uttar Pradesh state, causing people from young to old to develop fevers, coughs, shortness of breath, and then die.

Farmer Vipin Kumar, 40, is among the victims of the virus. Last week, Kumar had a fever, lying in pain in his dilapidated house. On the fifth day, his breathing became labored. The doctor advised family members to take Kumar to a hospital in a big city 40 km from the village – something beyond their means. On the evening of May 10, Kumar had a seizure and died shortly after.

According to villagers, more than 20 people with symptoms of Covid-19 have died within the past two weeks. This is significantly higher than the three to four deaths per month recorded before the pandemic. Most of them, like Kumar, were not tested.

Hariom Raghav, a farmer who had just returned from a relative’s cremation, said: “Not a day goes by without someone dying. If this continues, the village will soon be empty.”

Vipin Kumar’s family in Banail village. Image: WSP

Banail’s tragedy also struck villages across India as the virus continued to spread. Rural areas, where more than 65% of India’s population live, are facing a spike in infections. In three-quarters of the districts in India, the positive rate for nCoV is more than 10%, a health official said, May 11.

With more than 24 million cases of Covid-19, India became the epicenter of the pandemic. The country has continuously recorded more than 4,000 deaths a day, but according to experts, the actual number is higher. In the past week, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the nCoV strain found in India as a “worrying” variant. Early studies suggest it has more easily transmissible properties.

Health infrastructure in villages is not well equipped to meet current needs. Rural areas have far fewer doctors than needed. Villagers’ limited knowledge of epidemic prevention and slow vaccination programs have raised concerns.

At the center of this crisis is the state of Uttar Pradesh, home to 230 million people, more than the population of Brazil. It is also one of the poorest and least developed states.

In April, local elections are held in villages across the state. Officials attribute this to the escalation of the epidemic in rural areas. At the beginning of the month, the state recorded just over 2,500 Covid-19 cases. By the end of the month, when the elections were over, the number of cases had risen to nearly 35,000.

This week, dozens of bodies of suspected Covid-19 patients were found in the sacred Ganges River in the Uttar Pradesh region and neighboring states. Many are concerned that corpses are being dumped in rivers because cremation sites are overcrowded.

According to politician Yogendra Yadav, the state is the epicenter of “one of the worst disasters” in India in the 21st century. Recently, lawmakers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party sent a dispatch to the prime minister. state constitution, alarmed about the situation in rural areas.

In Banail, a village that has seen a series of deaths, the medical center is a dilapidated pink building with broken windows. The doctor was away for more than a month because he attended a government training program, then was isolated for working at a Covid-19 hospital in the district. One pharmacist said he had to tell villagers to call the Covid-19 helpline for help.

“The government has no preparation. They left us with god’s mercy. What should the people do?”, said Rakesh Sisodiya, a villager.

Dr Manpal Singh said nearly 10 people visit his clinic every day with flu-like symptoms. He advises people who have trouble breathing to get tested. However, testing is not easy. Recently, a government medical team went to the village to do testing, but they only brought 25 antibody test kits, while the population in the village is 10,000.

In a town 4 km away from the village, there is a larger hospital, but it also runs out of testing equipment. Staff member Hemendra Kumar said district officials sent 100 to 120 antibody test kits and 50 RT-PCR test kits per day. However, the facility was quickly used up, and the RT-PCR results took up to five days to arrive because they had to be transferred to a large hospital in the city 64 kilometers away for processing.

In Ghazipur district at the other end of the state, the situation is equally grim. The village chief of Sauramg sent authorities a report of 17 deaths from Covid-19 in the past two weeks, prompting them to organize screening points. Most villagers died at home without access to medical facilities. The nearest center is 19 km from the village. If they want better treatment, people have to travel more than 90 kilometers to the city of Varanasi. GC Maurya.

Cremation ceremony of a victim who died of Covid-19 in Bangalore, capital of Karnataka state, south India.  Photo: AFP.

Cremation ceremony of a patient who died of Covid-19 in Bangalore, capital of Karnataka state, south India. Image:AFP.

The neighboring state of Bihar was also badly affected. In Siwan, 34-year-old Vishnu Shankar Tiwari, an employee at an eye clinic, spent three days looking for a hospital bed and oxygen tanks for his mother. His mother’s oxygen levels dropped rapidly and she died on the way to the hospital.

“In the past two weeks, at least 12 people I know have died. Most of them died before they got to the hospital,” Tiwari said.

Amjad Khan, a local doctor, is consulting with people across the state via the WhatsApp app. He said: “It is difficult to know the true death toll in rural Bihar state. Most people do not even know that Covid-19 is the culprit that takes away the people they love.”

For the Kumar family in Banail village, the pain before death is pushed higher when conducting the post-mortem. The villagers did not help them carry the body to the cremation site. His youngest son, only 12 years old, had to carry his father’s body on a stretcher to the cremation point 3 km away from home.

Bimla Devi, Kumar’s sister choked: “He would still be alive if there were medical facilities here. My brother should not have died at this age.”

Mai Dung (According to the Washington Post)


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