Edmontonians find ways to help families suffering in India’s COVID-19 crisis

Varinder Bhullar’s heart jumps a little bit every time he hears the phone ring, especially during the early morning hours. He has family in India, where COVID-19 is increasingly getting worse.

On Wednesday, the country reported 3,293 deaths in the previous 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 201,187. The deaths and the confirmed cases of 17.9 million are thought to be undercounts.

“We may be a world away, but it’s very close to the heart,” Bhullar said.

As of right now, none of Bhullar’s family members are sick with the virus, but the risk is still there.

“There situation (in India) is very frustrating, there is a sense of lawlessness there,” Bhullar said.

He said he has heard of scenarios where people are desperate for oxygen and they are being charged tens of thousands of dollars. He said medicine and vaccines are also being sold on the black market.

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Read more: ‘Perfect storm’: How did India’s COVID-19 crisis get so bad?

He also worries about people finding ways from India to Canada.

“I know of a family whose daughter came from India and she wanted to see here dad. I guess she did not isolate, and she saw him. Her dad passed away from COVID after that, and those are the stories that hurt my heart, and it just makes you cry.”

Bhullar is using social media to post updates and ways to prevent the spread of the virus for his family in India.

Edmontonian Shikha Batra is also trying to aid her family any way she can from here.

She is encouraging people to call organizations that are claiming to offer support for people who are sick, and find out if they are legitimate.

“In order to find out what resources are genuine or not that are being posted and shared online, and we need people to put in time to figure out if this is a genuine resource or not,” Batra said.

Read more: India’s COVID-19 crisis: As feds pledge $10M, here’s how Canadians can help

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Batra said her family told her they found medicine that would help treat symptoms of the coronavirus online, but taking a closer look, scammers have printed off realistic labels and are selling fakes for thousands.

Click to play video: 'India’s COVID-19 death toll exceeds 200,000' India’s COVID-19 death toll exceeds 200,000

India’s COVID-19 death toll exceeds 200,000

Batra said her family members in India have tested positive for COVID-19. None of them have tried to get to the hospital yet.

“Once you are in the hospital, the general saying is you’re not going to come back.”

It’s a reality that could happen here, according to Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist with EPI Research Inc.

“When we make decisions based on anything other than science, the virus will take advantage,” Carr said.

“(India) is a country that really took this virus very seriously in the beginning, recognizing the vulnerability of the country — with high rates of poverty and crowding — and shut that country down for two months with significant economic impact.”

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Read more: India’s deadly COVID-19 surge rooted in crowded super-spreader events

The deadly second wave was likely caused by a “perfect storm” of mass gatherings, more contagious variants and low vaccination rates.

“They gave up multiple layers of protection at the same time, coming out of lockdown, not wearing masks, allowing huge crowds of people to get together for political and religious events, as well as ongoing life. So these layers of risk compounded into these massively… before unseen really exponential spread,” Carr said.

“It’s a lesson to be learned here in Canada.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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