Covid: What everyday life is really like in India as deadly second wave sweeps country

By Digital Producer and Presenter Rishi Davda

In a country of more than 1.3 billion people, a fast-spreading virus was likely to ravage the overcrowded population.

Some of the numbers coming out of India are quite staggering. A world-record 314,835 new coronavirus cases in one day, with 2,104 lives lost.

India is going through a deadly second wave, the healthcare system is overwhelmed and some cities are being forced back into lockdown.

So, what is everyday life like in India right now? We’ve spoken to three people living in Mumbai, a city with a population of around 12 million, about living in a Covid-stricken country.

Many Covid patients are dying in hospital car parks, ITV News Senior Correspondent Paul Davies reports

«There is no solution because of the population»

Sonali Mehta is a 47-year-old wife and mother-of-one who works for a marketing organisation specialising in medical devices.

During the pandemic, she has spent time in hospitals and described the unsustainable «demand for beds, ventilators, oxygen cylinders and medication». She recollects, «going to the hospital, it’s very difficult and morose, it’s crazy».

There is a shortage of hospital beds for coronavirus patients across India. Credit: AP

Sonali had coronavirus two weeks ago – in fact, her whole family had it. At one point, her whole apartment block was sealed off as too many people inside had tested positive. No one was allowed in or out.

Sonali recovered without needing to go to hospital, but said her husband’s recovery was much smoother than hers – possibly because he has had a dose of the vaccine.

At the moment, Mumbai’s streets are – compared to normal times – «deserted». Sonali says that everyone has «changed their patterns of working, socialising, even picking up groceries».

Sonali says that ‘nobody could have envisaged so many people getting sick at one time.’

Sonali blames large-scale rule-breaking for India’s second wave. «I know someone who had a house party for 15 people, they all got Covid, and infected 65 people in their respective households. We must restrict ourselves now and socialise later. Had we followed the restrictions, we wouldn’t have reached this situation.»

She sees India’s large population as a barrier to quickly lowering infection rates. «I am petrified as to how people are travelling by train and bus, they are stuck to each other, how do you not get Covid?»

«Ironic that you aren’t allowed more than three people in a car, but in a bus you’ll have 50 people on board. There is no solution because of the population. Population is our alibi.»

The only way for things to get better is for more people «to get the vaccine or get Covid, that way we create some sort of herd immunity».

Sacchin Ghadialli, pictured with wife Priyanka, thinks India has ‘learnt from western countries.’

«I’m not scared to go out»

Sacchin Ghadialli is a 36-year-old chartered account living with his wife Priyanka and 8-year-old daughter Aisha.

He says that «metro cities are very different to the towns and villages in India». Infections rates are much lower, because there is «no testing» in rural areas.

Sacchin reckons that in Mumbai about «seven out of 10 people are wearing their masks», even in the crowded markets and bazaars.

He still feels confident going to work and socialising in Mumbai, saying: «I’m not scared to go out, if you are wearing your mask all the time and you are carrying a small sanitiser in your pocket, then you are pretty well protected.»

Sacchin and Priyanka have already had the coronavirus vaccine.

Sacchin’s father had coronavirus last week, but 65-year-old Pannkaj was one of the fortunate ones who only had a «minor cough» and was able to get over his infection quickly.

Sacchin attributes his quick recovery to the fact that his father has already had both doses of the vaccine. He’s full of praise for the country’s doctors, saying they «learnt a lot from western countries».

From a global perspective, the father-of-one thinks it isn’t fair to compare India’s coronavirus infection rates and deaths to just one other country. Given the massive Indian population, he sees it right to compare numbers against the whole of Europe.

Sacchin is fiercely optimistic about the state of things in Mumbai – «whatever goes up fast, comes down fast. We’ve opened up vaccines for over-18s, that should help prevent a third wave».

Neha Poojara gave birth to Aanya 10 months ago

«It’s going to get worse before it gets better»

Neha Poojara is a 33-year-old who works in marketing. She and her husband welcomed baby Aanya into the world 10 months ago, in the middle of the pandemic.

Neha is much more fearful of the virus, spending pretty much all her time at home. «I don’t want to expose my daughter at all, we’ve just been at home for past two months. I used to take her to the park, but not anymore.»

She moved back into her mother’s house with Aanya, but is forced to stay inside after her new neighbours tested positive. At the moment, her husband Shivang isn’t able to visit for fear of spreading the virus. «He’s not happy about it, but he’ll have to wait.»

Neha’s husband Shivang isn’t visiting their daughter at the moment over covid concerns.

Much like Sonali, Neha blames a lack of mask-wearing and rule-following as the reason for the second wave. She says «there are people who don’t care, either because they have had Covid already, or because they think they’ll be fine».

India’s population has not been helping things, according to Neha. «You have 7 people sharing one room in some places, it’s obvious that it’s going to spread. The state is doing the best they can, but when they reopened train services too soon there was a huge increase.»

For Neha, the path forward is unclear. «My daughter has a mother and toddler group starting in September. At this moment, I’m questioning if that will be possible, for her to go out and be with other kids in a class. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.»

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