Infections, deaths and breakdowns that began in big cities a few weeks ago are rapidly advancing into rural areas, unleashing deep fear in places with little medical safety net.
Every day the Indian media delivers a heavy dose of turmoil and grief. On Tuesday, it was televised images of distraught relatives furiously beating the chests of loved ones who had died after the oxygen ran out, and headlines including “Bodies of Suspected Covid-19 Victims Found Floating” and “As Deaths Go Up 10 Fold, Worrying Signs from Smaller States.”
Once in awhile, villagers said, they see a single corpse floating in the river. It’s part of a custom in which some families send the bodies of their loved ones into the Ganges, the holiest river in Hinduism, weighted down by stones. But officials and residents in Chausa suspect that the unprecedented number of bodies they found this week belonged to victims of Covid-19.
The desperation that engulfed New Delhi, India’s capital, over the past few weeks is now spreading across the entire country, hitting states and rural areas with many fewer resources. Positivity rates are soaring in those states, and public health experts say that the rising numbers most likely fall far short of giving the true picture in places where sickness and deaths caused by Covid-19 are harder to track.
This was always the burning question: If New Delhi, home to the country’s elite and scores of hospitals, couldn’t handle the surge of coronavirus cases from a devastating new wave, what would happen in poorer rural areas?
Some of the worst affected states are now in the south, especially Karnataka, home to India’s tech hub, Bangalore. An oxygen express train, part of the Modi government’s effort to rush liquid oxygen to Covid-19 hot spots, chugged into Bangalore on Tuesday morning.
Rural areas were not doing much Covid testing and many people “may be dying due to a lack of any treatment at all.”