SA students witness horror of Covid-19's grim toll on India

02 May 2021 - 00:00
A man performs last rites next to the funeral pyres of people who died from Covid-19, during a mass cremation in New Delhi, India. The country experienced its deadliest day on Thursday this week, when 3,645 people died from the disease.
A man performs last rites next to the funeral pyres of people who died from Covid-19, during a mass cremation in New Delhi, India. The country experienced its deadliest day on Thursday this week, when 3,645 people died from the disease.
Image: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

It is like a movie playing out in real life, only this is no Bollywood drama. This is how Mikaila Chetty from Durban sees the "surreal" Covid-19 situation in India, where she is studying at Goa University.

"Over the past week India has seen on average 330,000 new cases per day. This is a devastating, shocking and scary figure to digest," Chetty told the Sunday Times.

Mikaila Chetty.
Mikaila Chetty.
Image: Supplied

"People have been waiting at hospitals for beds, ventilators and blood plasma. Scenes of anguish at hospitals all across the state are the order of the day.

"There are no hospital beds available and Covid-19 patients are lying on pavements gasping for breath, crying for help, dying on the roadsides. Ambulances are too busy and cannot cope."

Harrowing images of rows of bodies being cremated on funeral pyres in makeshift crematoriums on pavements and in parking lots made their way onto the front page of newspapers around the world this week as the country experienced its deadliest day on Thursday, when 3,645 fatalities pushed the death toll over 201,000.

"I would be lying if I said I was not scared. However, I am very hopeful that India will make it through this struggle," Chetty said.

"My master's degree finishes soon. I will be united with my family back home."

Brent-lee Naicker, who is studying for a BCom in financial accounting at Andhra University in Visakhapatnam, said he had witnessed a police officer begging on his knees for a group of people to social distance.

"I have also seen normal people and auto-rickshaw drivers stop their rickshaws and ask people standing on the street to wear their masks."

Naicker, from Phoenix in Durban, said there was a "slow lockdown" in most parts of India and there were night curfews in states such as Karnataka and Delhi.

Delhi state has reported one Covid-19 death every four minutes.

Naicker said his university constantly monitored all international students for possible signs of Covid-19.

19-million

India's total number of Covid-19 cases

"Our lecturers constantly call and check up on us. I had a lecturer who drove to my apartment at 1am just to drop off medication for a normal cold I had," he said.

Another student, who did not want to be named, told the Sunday Times she had travelled across three continents to visit her family in Durban a month ago, only to contract Covid-19 when she returned to Mumbai.

The student, who contracted the virus from her roommate, was too weak to respond to further queries and has gone into isolation.

Shrivaan Naidoo, who is studying in Andhra Pradesh state, said he was afraid but not to the point where he wanted to return home to Durban.

"My family in SA have seen the images and the news of the situation in India. They were worried at first but after a deeper analysis of the news that they watched they are now aware that the state I am in is not one of the most affected states."

Meanwhile, Stavros Nicolaou, who heads Business for South Africa's health working group, said India's current situation did not affect SA's vaccination programme.

"SA has secured thus far two options, the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines, and neither are being manufactured in India, so there is no impact," Nicolaou said.


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