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Is this the “forgotten forgotten” of India’s COVID? | Corona virus epidemic


Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh – Richa Gupta believes that her father would still be alive if she had received immediate medical attention.

A 17-year-old high school graduate lives in Sultanpur Kheda, a village of about 6,000 people 11 miles from Rae Bareli city and about 385 miles southeast of India’s capital, New Delhi.

His father, Awadhesh Gupta, 47, was healthy but died on April 27 – Richa believes from COVID-19. However, because they have not been tested for HIV, no one can be sure.

“My father was always healthy and well,” she says. But on the evening of April 16 it started to get hot. “The next day she started coughing,” Richa recalls.

He said he bought the drug from a local pharmacy but it did not work and “the temperature rises”.

According to Richa, her father applied to a local “quack” – an unregistered “doctor” who the villagers often go to save time because public health services are far away and often crowded. These doctors are not legally recognized, but in rural India, people often rely on them. The “doctor” also gave her other medications, Richa says, adding that she “took them for two days but nothing worked.”

On April 22, Awadhesh went to a private hospital in Rae Bareli but was told to go to the city government hospital because he had symptoms like COVID. There, doctors prescribed other drugs for her and advised her to keep to herself.

Richa cries when she explains that she has not tested COVID-19 at the hospital. He is convinced, however, that it was the virus that killed him.

Richa Gupta carries a picture of his late father [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

Awadhesh began to breathe on April 24 and, on the advice of a colleague who was a doctor, went for a CT scan at a private laboratory in Rae Bareli. “Later, we discovered that my father’s lungs were infected and that [we were sure] he had COVID, “explains Richa.

“A CT scan reported that one of my father’s lungs was damaged while the other was 50 percent damaged. My maternal uncle was immediately taken to the district hospital from where he was transferred to the COVID volunteer hospital in Lal Ganj [around 20 miles from Rae Bareli city].

“My father was admitted there on April 25, but did not receive any treatment other than oxygen treatment. He was pronounced dead on April 27,” he said.

Due to the fact that the couple owned COVID, Awadhesh’s death was recorded as COVID’s death. However, in most cases when a patient is not tested for COVID, authorities say that their deaths are due to “unknown” or “natural”, or “comorbidities” (causes).

Richa believes he knows the time and place when his father received COVID.

“I am sure that my father contracted the virus when he went to the polls for the panchayat (village council),” she said.

Elections for Indian regional councils in Uttar Pradesh took place four consecutive days in April – the first of which was on April 15, when Awadhesh went to the polls. There has been criticism of the failure to force people to stay away and to wear masks during elections and voting.

The home of Awadhesh Kumar Gupta, who died on April 27 [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

‘Anonymous Fever’

Vinod Tiwari was the village leader (or gram pradham) until he was elected in a recent election. He said he had heard of 12 deaths in the village in the past three weeks but that only two people had been registered as COVID-19.

“Not all deaths have occurred in the village [officially] because of COVID-19, “he says.” Two people from the village have died in hospitals who were infected with COVID while two or three others had symptoms similar to those of COVID. The cause of the deaths is unknown but people say they were comorbid people [those with underlying health issues]. ”

Some believe that the figure is too high. Sudeep Shukla, a village farmer, has kept a record of all the dead. He ranks 18th in the last three weeks. Everyone is sick but nothing is happening to end this “secret fever” that is taking life after life, he says. It is proven to be COVID-19.

“This cousin is sick. The neighbor is sick. The flour mill boy is sick. The store owner is ill. A young man across the street is getting sick. Everyone is sick. Everyone has tuberculosis and, to date, 18 people have died in three weeks. We have never seen so many people die in such a short time. Older people who die seem normal, but those who have died in middle age are not uncommon. This should end now. Fever is just the tip of the iceberg, ”says Sudeep

Sudeep Shukla said 18 villagers had died in the past three weeks [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

Vinod Tiwari said villagers think the death toll is linked to local council elections. “A lot of people have been seen in all election-related activities, whether it’s giving elections, campaigning, voting or counting elections,” he explains.

“Villagers living in other cities came to the village to demand their rights. They passed through public transportation and no inspections or tests were conducted. God knew if he had the virus but soon people were dying. ”

The closest medical center is the state-of-the-art medical center in the village of Jatua, about six miles[6 km]away. But it does not have the tools to deal with complex issues like COVID. Those displaying the signs are being sent to the state hospital in Rae Bareli or to the COVID volunteer hospital in Lal Ganj where Awadhesh died. It has 10 ventilators and 250 beds, 112 of which have air conditioning, according to the site’s director, Dr BR Yadav. There are 15 doctors and 30 assistants, enough to treat each one, the official said.

A female patient is cared for by her children as their friends carry an oxygen pencil behind her as she enters the COVID volunteer hospital in Lal Ganj in Rae Bareli district [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

Small businesses such as grocery stores and agriculture are the village’s main source of income – in the north they live in the most affluent cities and in the west are the homes of the less fortunate.

The city also has “ten people”, but all three are “missing” from the village, he says. It is believed that unregistered doctors are hiding for fear of health department officials coming as a result of COVID cases. The only drugstore in the village has become a shopping center for one of the villagers who are urgently seeking medical attention for their symptoms such as COVID. Manoj Verma is his, aged 30.

“Government-run facilities are less effective because villagers have a habit of visiting local doctors but are not registered doctors. The doctors have stopped looking at patients because of the epidemic and the high incidence of COVID-19 cases and now people come to my shop to get treatment, ”he explains.

“For treatment, [a] These drugs are effective but now people come to ask for medicines such as sweeteners, aspirin, antibiotics, anti-parasitics and those medicines. [a] I do not need to be prescribed medication but I do warn them to go to the doctor first and take the medication only after consulting a doctor. ”

But there is another problem that Manoj claims to testify against – “people are afraid to test COVID-19, even if they have dangerous symptoms such as shortness of breath.” [and] coughing .., because they feel that they may be disturbed by people, ”he explains.

Although death tends to exist, some villagers do not wear masks [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

‘He Brought a Beetle’

Emergency reports of deaths in the village have been disrupted. When asked about the number of deaths in the village, Anshika Dikshit, district administrator wrote in Rae Bareli district, told Al Jazeera: Few people died from COVID, while the rest died naturally and most of the time. ”

Rae Bareli’s chief medical officer, Dr Virendra Singh, told Al Jazeera by telephone that he knew of only four or five people who had died in the village – three of them as a result of COVID.

Many Indian states enacted stricter laws last month while others suspended travel and closed cinemas, restaurants, bars, schools, training schools and retail outlets.

A worker unloads oxygen cylinders at L2 Hospital in Lal Ganj [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

Brian Wahl, a pathologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s department of New Health in New Delhi, says construction in rural India is not equipped with such equipment.

“We know that in rural areas, access to services is difficult and these areas rely on health workers only. “We know the convention can be a very common event,” he said.

Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, President of the Progressive Medicos & Scientists Forum (PMSF) in New Delhi, agrees.

“In the past, people came to cities in dire straits but now, seeing the increase, they have nowhere to go. The saddest thing is that we will never know how many people died and why they died, ”he explained.

“In the past, Indian villages were safe, but this time, because of the local council elections and because of the Kumbh Mela festival. [which around 3.5 million people attended], COVID has reached the villages. ”

Mr Bhatti believes this could have been avoided and many more lives would have been saved had it not been for a timely election.

“Elections strengthen democracy…. [But] “People from big cities went to their villages to sell their rights and the virus also spread and now we are seeing the consequences and killing more people,” he said.

‘He says his breath is asthma’

Meanwhile, in Sultanpur Kheda, another tragedy is taking place. Across the street from the Gupta family home, a middle-aged woman in a gray saree wept under the barn outside the two-story house. Her 12-year-old granddaughter is trying to comfort her. He flees home when asked about the problem.

But a 26-year-old son, Indrajeet Sahu, explains that his 52-year-old father, Ram Sajeevan Sahu, died on April 27.

“She became ill after the local council elections,” explains Indrajeet.

“She got very hot and from April 23, she started complaining about breathing. To burn her, she took medicine to the local pharmacy but was advised to see a doctor immediately.”

Indrajeet Sahu and her mother outside their home in the village [Saurabh Sharma/Al Jazeera]

On April 25, the couple took Ram Sajeevan to a hospital in the village of Jatua. But doctors did not treat him as a COVID – the couple said they did not know why.

“The doctors gave her medicine, saying that breathing could be caused by asthma, so we took the medicine and went home. The problem persisted and we heard that some nearby hospitals were out of breath and on the morning of April 27, he died at home, “says Indrajeet.

He explains that his father helped him drive the trailer but that now that he is dead Indrajeet should only support the whole family.

“It is very sad to see your father die when you see it. Very painful [thing is not being able to help him [in] anyway. There was no air in any of the hospitals and things were very bad. Now that my dad is gone it seems like it’s all over, ”she says, tears welling up in her eyes.


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