By Emily Drooby
The COVID-19 outbreak in India is devastating. Outside of hospitals, patients struggle to get in and inside, they struggle to breathe.
“These are really, really painful stories,” explained Father Peter Poonoly.
He’s the parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but is from the Diocese of Rayagada in India.
He lost two close friends and heard horrible stories abroad, including from his nephew who is also a priest, who said a whole family was affected at once.
“A priest friend of his, father, mother, brother and sister-in-law all died within a few days,” Father Poonoly said.
Over in Bellrose, Queens, Father Johnson Nedungadan has also been monitoring the situation.
“The situation is really out of control,” said Father Nedungadan.
His two parents are in their 80’s and quarantined in India. They can’t get their second shot.
“The problem is right now vaccines are not available for the second shot, so they have to wait,” he said.
In February, it seemed cases were under control. So how did this happen? There’s a lot of factors. One, experts say, people were unprepared because they didn’t see it coming.
“First, the fact that people became extremely complacent and stopped following the COVID guidelines,” explained Dr. Mathukumalli Vidyasagar. He’s the chair of the COVID-19 Modeling Committee in India.
More were unsafely gathered together at big events.
“When the cases were coming down, people took it lightly, they were not following the protocol wearing masks and sanitizing their hands,” Father Poonoly said.
While Father Nedungadan added, “There were election campaigning going on and there was also a huge gathering of Hindu festival-goers.”
Even with the spike in COVID cases, festivals and election rallies continued this past week.
Also to blame are a slow response by the central government and slow vaccine rollout, along with a false sense of herd immunity.
“And second, the emergence of certain contagious variants on the Indian subcontinent,” Dr. Vidyasagar explained.
If trends continue experts say deaths will double by mid-June. The spike could have a global impact.
If you’d like to donate to the COVID-19 relief in India, head on over to khalsaaid.org/donate