Fr.Varam Anthonyswamy OMI
St. Eugene Province, India

India’s deadly Covid-19 second wave has devastated big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Pune, Chennai and Bengaluru. Hospitals and crematoriums have run out of space, and funerals are taking place in car parks. But the pandemic has also firmly gripped many smaller cities, towns, and villages, where the devastation is largely under-reported.

People spend many hours taking their kith and kin from one hospital to another in autos, and bikes, as the people cannot get an ambulance or any other vehicles. Once they reach the hospitals, the hospital administration washes its hands, saying there are no beds available, ventilators are running short, pharmacies are empty, and even if they have medicines, they are unaffordable by a normal or even a middle-class family. Thus, the people leave ultimately everything to fate and come home leaving the patients in the corridors and sometimes spaces wherever they may be available in the hospital.

The hospitals, when they don’t find a place for patients with the virus, send you back home to care for yourselves with prescribed medicines we need to buy ourselves. And, when people go to buy medicine in pharmacies, either it is very costly (which even a middle-class family can’t afford) or not available at all.

A son who had taken his father to the hospital and returned without getting a bed for him, cries on TV news as follows: “I am giving him medicines at home, but I am not sure that he will survive”. We have been left to die on the streets.  He says several private hospitals even “conned” him and took money to do tests, only to tell him later to take his father away as there were no beds. “I am not a wealthy person. I spent whatever I had to pay the auto driver and the hospitals. Now I am going to borrow some money to get an oxygen cylinder at home.”  Such stories have become common in Delhi, the worst affected city in India, and other metropolitan cities, but similar accounts are now coming in from smaller cities and towns across the country.

The Oblates were not exempt from the infection of this deadly virus.

All the more, the government has made the ‘Remdesivir Injection’, to be sold only by the Government in Government hospitals. Relatives need to stand in line for hours, and sometimes for days, without food and drink, and some lose their lives from dehydration, etc. This has become common if you watch the news on India, and while it could be the same elsewhere on the globe, to see it is really devastating.

The Oblates were not exempt from the infection of this deadly virus. Several Oblates in India are infected with this virus, a few have recovered from it with great difficulties, and some have been treated in home quarantine with medicines prescribed by hospitals. A few others have not been able to get beds. As we approach even the Catholic hospitals for bed availability, even the hospitals the Oblates routinely visit say that they don’t have beds, for the hospitals are full. Thus we need to wait for days to get a place in the hospitals. At least for now, the number of the Oblates has risen to 8 seriously infected and hospitalized and some others in home quarantine.  Several Oblate students and brothers are being treated with medications, with ‘Ayurveda’ remedies in the communities themselves, as neither beds nor resources are available in reserve for us in this sudden devastating increase of this deadly virus in the second wave.

In the first wave, Oblates concentrated primarily outside of our communities to help the people affected, but now, in the second wave, we need to concentrate both within our communities who need help and outside for the people who are really struggling for their livelihood and survival, physically, mentally and medically. We too, as the people do here leave it to God Almighty to take care of the Oblates and people in his abundant mercy and compassion.