Monday, May 3, 2021

India and COVID-19 grim statistics

Background: India has recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic yet with 3,689 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, as the country’s caseload surged to 19.5 million with 392,488 fresh infections according to government data. This is the fourth straight day India has recorded over 3,000 deaths as the second wave of the pandemic carries on unabated and keeps setting grim new records, data showed on Sunday.

Altogether, 215,542 people have died from Covid-19. India became the first country to cross 400,000 daily cases on Saturday. It recorded 6.6 million infections and 45,000 deaths in April, compared to the little over 1.2 million cases and 5,417 deaths in March. Health care systems are overwhelmed, and a shortage of medical oxygen has emerged as the most serious challenge.

Arundhati Roy has called the situation 'a crime against humanity'. 

Thirty-four patients died for alleged want of oxygen in hospitals in the national capital, New Delhi, and the states of Andhra Pradesh and Haryana on Saturday, the Times of India reported. Thirty-one more with Covid-19-like symptoms and “breathing difficulties” died in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh state, the report cited authorities as saying. The Delhi High Court has warned that it will start punishing officials if life-saving supplies of oxygen and medical supplies don’t make it to hospitals.

Indian Railways has converted 4,000 railway carriages into “isolation coaches” with 64,000 beds. As many as 213 coaches had been handed to various states for Covid-19 care.

While the worst-affected cities and states like New Delhi and Mahrashtra are in prolonged lockdowns, states like Odisha and Haryana also announced new lockdowns to halt the spread of infections in rural areas.

India’s Covid-19 taskforce has pushed hard for a nationwide lockdown to help subdue the second wave, the Indian Express reported. Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all efforts should be made be avoid a lockdown.

The federal government fears another lockdown will have a devastating impact on the economy. The lockdown imposed last year after the first COVID-19 outbreak led to job losses as economic output fell a record 24% in April-June 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Modi’s government has been criticised for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies in five states through March and April. Daily cases in these states have spiked since then. (Source: Indaily, 3rd May 2021)

Modi's Covid-19 taskforce didn’t meet for months. The Minister for Health assured the public in March that India had reached the pandemic’s “endgame”. A few weeks before that, Modi had told global leaders that his nation had triumphed over coronavirus. India “saved humanity from a big disaster by containing corona effectively”, Modi told a virtual gathering at the World Economic Forum in late January. Now, a second wave has made India the worst-hit country in the world. Only 1.6% of its 1.3 billion population has been vaccinated. “Fake news" continues to discourage many from taking the proper precautions against the continuing spread of the virus. The decision to lower restrictions and allow large-scale political rallies and religious celebrations to continue has proved disastrous as an apparently new Covid-19 variant burned across the country.

New infections have reached about 400,000 a day. Actual cases are expected to be much higher than official figures report. Vaccines are running short. Hospitals are swamped. Lifesaving oxygen is running out. Each day, cremation grounds burn thousands of bodies, sending up never-ending plumes of ash that are turning the skies grey over some of India’s biggest cities.

The virus is cutting across all castes and income groups. No one feels safe from it, and many are falling for scam cures and preventatives being peddled to the unwary by the unscrupulous. 

The continued neglect of the healthcare system has led to its complete collapse under the crushing weight of the pandemic. Poor communities, once again, bear the brunt. Living in crammed areas without sanitation and using shared toilets and water points, they have no means to follow COVID-19 guidelines. In addition, migrant workers employed in the informal sector are once again facing uncertainties. Sporadic lockdowns and curfews have already triggered another exodus of migrant workers, putting them at the risk of not just contracting COVID-19 but also prolonged months without jobs or money.

Please pray

“If we only knew what happened when we pray, we would never cease to pray!” (Louie Giglio)

Sovereign God, your breath that we share, whether in India or the United States of America, unites us. The suffering inflicted on us by COVID-19 also brings us together. We pray for our siblings in India who are overcome by waves of grief, uncertainty and fear. We pray that they may again breathe in your life, peace and presence in this unnerving season.

Merciful God, we lament with your people in India left without time and space to bury their dead and grieve their losses. We join them in hope and confidence that they – in this, their valley of the shadow of death – will find your presence closer and clearer.

Divine Healer, heal our numbness and bring us together that we your people on different continents receive and mediate your grace through our words, deeds and largess.

Spirit of God, you join us in seasons of joy, dancing life and in the seasons of grief, challenging death. You join us in moments when our wounds, emotional and physical, are too deep for words, groaning with us. We join you and our siblings in India that we together with them recognize and proclaim the new life, abundance and peace you have willed for us all.  Amen.

(Source: James Taneti,  director of the Syngman Rhee Global Mission Center for Christian Education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia)

God of redemption, for all who this day are walking in fear - bring your peace. For all who this day are facing an uncertain future - bring your hope. For all who this day are grieving losses and heartbreaks - bring your comfort. For all who this day are angry or hurt or broken or lost - bring your very presence to surround them and bear them up. 

(Source: Andrew Gunton, Moderator, Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod)

Please uphold in prayer our DIAKONIA member associations in India:

* CSI Order of Women in the Church of South India, Women’s House (Karnataka)

                Sister Anna John,

*TELC Bethania Deaconess Home (Andhra Pradesh)

                Deaconess Mother Grace Padma,

The Methodist Church in India, Deaconesses Order 

                We do not have a current contact for the Deaconess Order, 

                 but the Chairman/President is Bishop N L Karkare,

You might make contact with words of encouragement, commitment to ongoing prayers for India etc. You might also use the DIAKONIA World Federation Facebook page to communicate. 

You might also explore practical ways to help including: 

Oxfam, Milaap, Hemkunt Foundation (specifically oxygen cylinders) etc, and also check out your denominational and ecumenical agencies, and NGO's, which might have options for much needed practical support. 

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