In Rural India, Answers to a 'Burning Question'

Namely, how will poorer areas handle a surge in COVID cases?
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 12, 2021 3:24 PM CDT
Relatives Leaving Ashes of India COVID Victims Behind
A volunteer runs to avoid heat emitting from the burning funeral pyres of COVID-19 victims at a crematorium in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021.   (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

India's crematoriums are overwhelmed—and as Reuters reports, many of the ashes are going uncollected by families. That's due in part to the fear that they could become infected with COVID by visiting the site. So volunteers are doing so for them, at least in the case of a group in Delhi that carries out the rituals that the Hindu families would otherwise perform, including washing the ashes and bone remnants in milk and water and then holding onto them until an annual religious ceremony is held in September on the banks of the Ganges in the city of Haridwar. The Washington Post reports India on Wednesday reported 348,421 new cases Wednesday and 4,205 deaths—its most ever. It sits in a region that is currently the only one on the planet where cases are climbing.

The New York Times shifts its lens to rural areas of the country, and the picture is a frightening one. "This was always the burning question," it writes. "If New Delhi, home to the country’s elite and scores of hospitals, couldn't handle the surge of coronavirus cases from a devastating new wave, what would happen in poorer rural areas?" By way of an answer it points to the scene on Monday night at a hospital in Andhra Pradesh, a rural state in the country's southeast. The oxygen there ran out, leading to 11 patient deaths. Relatives reportedly became furious and streamed into the ICU, where they pummeled equipment and overturned tables; hospital staff fled. It's unlikely to be a one-off as COVID makes its way into more and more rural areas that have fewer and fewer resources to deal with it. (More India stories.)

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