The Second Wave of Covid-19 in India
Fr. Fernando Franco SJ, Director for Development in the Jesuit Province of Gujarat, vividly describes the current state of the pandemic.
The month of April 2021 has witnessed the worst health crisis in India in the last 50 years. At the peak of the first wave, September 2020, the number of new contagions per day rose to around 90,000. Now, the number of new contagions per day has risen to 314, 839. This is a 350% increase.
A spokesperson for the government stated on the 24 of April, that the peak of this second wave may be reached by mid-May with a figure of half a million infected per day. He also added that this wave may subside by June-July 2021. The scenario is threatening and extremely disturbing.
These figures are appalling and scaring, but they never explain what is to be in a situation when every day brings you the news of the death of somebody you know, somebody you love, somebody you just talked to a few days ago. Last week four Jesuits from Gujarat province died. On the 20 of April, the Jesuits of the Gujarat province received a health update with the news that 6 more Jesuits were admitted to a hospital; 2 other Jesuits who were admitted were continuing treatment; 9 Jesuits had been discharged but were quarantined in their respective communities; and finally, 5 others continued to be quarantined in their communities without going to hospital. News about the health of 22 Jesuits! Unprecedented.
But this is not the worse picture of what is happening. You are careful in your room avoiding contact while your parishioners in a city are asking you desperately to provide some place to stay because they find difficult to get a hospital bed. WhatsApp messages keep on informing you that all department of the St Xavier University have been affected, and the list increases. Parish priests inform you that the situation in the rural areas is one of panic and confusion. The number of those infected will never be known, and a large number of villagers refuse to take a vaccine because they have heard wild stories that circulate from phone to phone. You remain at home, in the hamlet of a village, without not knowing where to go and whom to contact. It is like those medieval sculptured reliefs in our Gothic cathedrals depicting the dance of death.
The TV channels these days have shown us photos of crematoriums with a horrible waiting list. For other communities, huge bulldozers keep on opening pits everywhere to receive the dead. May be two or three in one hole. I am reminded unfortunately of other tragedies like the earthquake of 2002. The difference with the earthquake is that it happened once, while this is repeated every day and we do not know for how long! The tragedy of the oxygen is making the rounds; and the same happens with the scarcity of rural health centres.
You sit down in silence to pray and experience the fear of a death that seems to advance stealthily through the air you breath. Everybody is sending messages with new remedies, new rules of safety, and new prayers. One of the TV channels is interviewing a group of men waiting outside a big hospital, with a large number of ambulances queuing up, while some of the patients have to be treated inside the ambulance because there is no more place in the hospital.
In the midst of this chaos and tragedy, there are the signs of humanity and compassion. All this reveals the mystery of the human being: vulnerable and yet capable of dominating others; wounded and yet able to feel compassion. Not all travelers leave the wounded person on the road; the least expected, the Samaritan, is the one who stops and takes care of him.