The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has struck India with more than 400,000 COVID cases per day, the death toll reaching its peak, to the point where people are dying in the streets, and hospitals are at maximum capacity with limited resources and overflowing. Rural areas of India are disproportionately affected, with limited resources, and people are dying due to lack of access to medication and a severe shortage in equipment and oxygen. Due to India’s dense population, the number of cases continues to rise and, in turn, so does the death toll.
One of my parishioners from St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Suffern, New York told me that his aunt who was critically ill with the coronavirus had contacted the Indian Prime Minister’s office in an effort to seek admission to a hospital in New Delhi, to no avail. Due to lack of beds and equipment available at hospitals, and not receiving medical care, she died at home. Even those who are lucky enough to gain admission to a hospital are not able to receive appropriate care, due to severe shortages of antiviral drugs, medical oxygen, and ICU beds.
Additionally, the number of deaths recorded are those that are registered. Many people in rural communities are dying in their homes, and their bodies are cremated locally, making the disparity in resources even more evident. Less than 2% of the Indian population has received both doses of the vaccine to date. Vaccine centers do not have enough supply to the to accommodate the population in need. Despite vaccine eligibility opening up to adults over the age of 18, limited supply poses the biggest barrier, along with limited medical care available to those who contract the virus.
Family members have shared with me that they believe that India’s second wave of the virus became this severe due to massive election campaign rallies in the five states and crowded festivals and religious gatherings where social distancing regulations and mask mandates were not enforced, resulting in mass-infections.
Christians in India call for prayer as this deadly pandemic surges. The Malankara Orthodox Church has expanded all its resources to extend help to local, state, and federal government in order to assist in the handling of this pandemic, including opening up all available institutions, churches, and buildings attached to the local parishes to be used for quarantine and setting up pop-up medical facilities, vaccine sites, and centers to supply food and medicines. The Orthodox youth movement has volunteers all over India to aid those who are in need irrespective of caste, creed, or religion. Most Christian denominations in India have programs available to assist people in need during this devastating stage of the global pandemic. The saddest part of this crisis is that many who die are not receiving a proper burial and cremation and being denied to right to die with dignity. The Malankara Orthodox Church’s Human Empowerment division provides online services like prayers, emotional support, and counselling to those who are struggling emotionally due to the coronavirus and its effects.
People’s day-to-day in India is consumed by stress of contracting the virus and fear of dying.
In Kerala, the state with the highest population of Christians in India, the chief minister recently reported that the surge is not over, and they are expecting a third wave with higher levels of circulating virus, which will inevitably result in more infections and death.
Nations like the US and other countries are helping with providing resources, and Christians from all over the world are extending their prayers and support. Let us continue our prayers for those who are severely ill from COVID, the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions so that they remain healthy and flatten the curve.
We pray for all those who have lost loved ones across the world due to the Coronavirus.
The Reverend Dr. Raju Varghese is Vicar of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church in Suffern, New York.
Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.