Singapore residents fear for loved ones in India as Covid-19 death toll there climbs

SINGAPORE – The first thing senior fintech consultant Shubadha Mishra does when she wakes up in her flat in Kembangan nowadays is to reach for her phone to check on the condition of her fiance, Mr Zakwan Khan, 28.

He is diabetic and lives in a flat in Hyderabad in India’s Telangana state. His flatmate, a friend, is currently battling Covid-19 but is recovering at home as there are no hospital beds available in the city.

Ms Mishra, 28, is one of hundreds of Singapore residents who have spent the past few weeks fearing for their loved ones in India as a new and devastating Covid-19 wave sweeps across the subcontinent.

She said: “My fiance is in the high-risk category, but since all his family members have the virus, he could not go to them, and his friend has no one else to care for him either.

She added: “Every day, wondering if he has got the infection from his flatmate or if his own oxygen level is going to dip all of a sudden – which may point to an ongoing Covid-19 infection – is an extremely depressing thought. I am relieved to be safe in Singapore but I regret not being able to help my friends and family.”

India’s Covid-19 numbers hit another record on Monday (April 26) for the fifth day in a row as countries pledged to send urgent medical aid. Medical equipment, including much-needed oxygen-related supplies, were sent from Singapore to India on Sunday.

India, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has recorded 17.31 million Covid-19 infections and 195,123 deaths. Health experts say the death toll is probably far higher.

Mrs Latha Pradeep, 47, a teacher at the Global Indian International School, is worried about her eldest daughter and her parents, who live in Kozhikode, a town in the southern state of Kerala.

Mrs Latha’s 23-year-old daughter is a third-year medical student at the Calicut Medical College, which has a Covid-19 isolation ward. While her daughter has received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as a front-line worker, Mrs Latha said she is worried that her daughter might unwittingly transmit the virus to her parents, who have received only the first dose.

“Every moment we spend here when we are not distracted by work, we are thinking about loved ones back home and the country as a whole,” Mrs Latha said.

Ms Vaishnavi Gupta, 21, a final-year student at the Singapore Management University, was completing her final examinations last week when she found out that her 77-year-old grandmother in Kolkata, in West Bengal state, had tested positive for the virus.

“I really wanted to be there for her and the stress got in the way of my exams to an extent. Due to the bed shortage in hospitals, she was hospitalised later than she should have been, which really affected her health,” Ms Gupta said.

Mr Pulak Rishi, 34, and Ms Saumya Bhargava, 33, who are now Singaporeans, said they felt helpless when both their parents contracted the virus in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state.

Mr Rishi, a chief software architect, said: “Our initial attempts to source oxygen exposed us to the ground reality of resource shortage, overworked doctors and supply chain bottlenecks. We lived with the uncertainty of wondering what the doctor would say, if we would get medicine the next day or if home care would work.”

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While their parents are currently recovering at home, the couple are on standby for the possibility that their loved ones could still be reinfected by another variant of the coronavirus.

Ms Bhargava, a senior category manager in the food and beverage sector, said the crisis has left her drained.

“While managing things remotely, we encountered horror stories about families, death and suffering, creating more fear. I feel like a part of my soul is dying every day,” she said. “Right now we have to keep going because there is no other option, but once things become better, I will probably start going to therapy.”

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