Scars of death, livelihood loss still fresh even three years after Covid cases peaked

New Delhi, May 6 (PTI) Exactly three years ago, India’s daily COVID-19 cases peaked at 4.14 lakh as the country grappled with the worst phase of the pandemic and a return to normality seemed a distant dream.

While cases and deaths gradually declined and India crawled back to normality as people learnt to live with the virus, the scars of lockdowns and deaths remained.

Recounting his ordeal, Erick Massey, whose mother died in 2021 at the Jaipur Golden Hospital allegedly due to oxygen shortage, said public memory is indeed short.

“Now that elections are taking place, COVID-19 is no longer an issue at all for any party. Governments shed their responsibility and evaded any accountability. Even people seem to have forgotten about it,” he told PTI.

Noida resident Atiya Khusro, 60, who battled severe COVID-19 in 2021, described the pandemic period as unprecedented and said it seemed that life would never be the same.

It has been three years but the scars remain, she said.

“I lost my brother to COVID in December 2020. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss him. He was so healthy and full of life and had so much to live for… the vacuum caused by his death can never be filled,” Khusro said.

Gyanander Bhati owned a transport company before 2020 but lost all during the pandemic. He is now a driver at AIIMS and earns a salary of Rs 25,000 per month, a tenth of what he earned three years ago.

“My business completely collapsed during the Covid crisis and lockdown period,” he said. To make ends meet, he shifted his children to a cheaper school and drastically cut back on his expenses.

The virus that claimed more than 5.3 lakh lives and infected around 4.5 crore in India, has, according to experts, become endemic and the symptoms are very much like the common cold. India removed COVID-related restrictions after March 31, 2022.

“Variants will keep coming. It’s an RNA virus so mutations are bound to happen but there will not be any surge in cases. It’s unlikely that severity and deaths will increase in future. There is no need to worry now,” said Dr Sanjay Rai, a senior epidemiologist and a professor at the Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS-Delhi said.

Former AIIMS director Dr Randip Guleria, Covid cases will continue and the virus is going to be here.

“Though it is of no concern as of now, the variants should be tracked and genomic sequencing should be done. The disease has become endemic in the country and we should start responding to SARS-CoV2 like any other viral disease,” Dr Guleria, who is presently the chairman of internal medicine, respiratory and sleep medicine at Medanta Hospital, told PTI.

The World Health Organisation on May 5, 2023, announced that COVID-19 was no longer a global public health emergency. However the elderly and those with weak immunity need to be extra careful as they are predisposed to getting a more severe form of the disease.

Recounting the nightmarish experience, Jyoti, a 30-year-old homemaker in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, said, “There was so much dread. I wondered if life would ever be possible without masks and sanitisers. I wondered if my children would go back to school physically.”

In a post on X, Rituparna Chatterjee said, “As long as I live, I will never forget. Three years to the day I accepted my mother would probably die because I couldn’t keep buying cylinders for Rs 85,000. She was in hospital for 26 days and survived. I will never forget how every single step of the way we dealt with corruption.”

Robin Bhakhan, a lawyer, took to X to say, “I did not have to personally go through such experience during COVID but every day news of relatives dying or giving up to the mismanagement shook me to the core. Two years of darkness.”

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