As India's COVID situation worsens, Montrealers organize relief efforts

As the world watches in horror at the climbing death toll brought on by COVID-19 in India, the expat community in Montreal is rallying to help their loved ones.

For Manny Kohli, watching the news from back home has been a distressing experience.

“People are panicking. Hospitals are full, oxygen is in a shortage and I hear every day, our extended family, some friends, or on the TV, every minute somebody is dying.”

On Sunday, Indian officials reported almost 3,700 deaths due to the virus over the previous 24 hours, and 400,000 new cases. The country has reported 216,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, though some experts have said that number is likely far below the actual count.

To help the dire situation, Kohli started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for oxygen concentrators, a device that delivers oxygen to patients without a tank. Kohli's clothing company, Matt & Nat, donated $10,000 to the effort.

“The funds are growing every minute. We're almost at $40,000,” said Kohli. “Our goal is maximum, we are going to keep going for a few weeks and see how much we can collect.”

In Delhi, Kohli's cousin Vikramjit Sahney has experienced the virus' toll firsthand.

“I have caught COVID a second time, but I have recovered,” he said.

Sahney is the chairman of the Sun Foundation, which is working to find and deliver more oxygen devices for communities in need.

“It's a demand-supply situation. The demand for oxygen, the demand for medicine, the demand for hospitals is like 10 times or 100 times the supply,” he said.

Madhukar Pai, a professor of epidemiology and global health at McGill University called the situation in India “really dire.”

“The gap between the need and what is currently on the ground is humongous.”

Pai added that flattening the curve in India will depend on whether the country's public health system can organize and implement a plan quickly.

“There are certain states that have gone into a full lockdown and those lockdowns are like a circuit breaker and we'll start to see the dip in the number of cases,” he said. “But there are other places where not enough is being done.”

Pai attributed the skyrocketing numbers to the country's leaders prematurely declaring victory over COVID-19 after some success containing the virus early on. With just 10 per cent of the country's population having received a vaccine, he called on western countries to step in.

“We cannot just vaccinate rich countries and hope we'll end the pandemic here,” he said. “We've got to end the pandemic for everybody. Otherwise, these pandemics will keep popping up in other parts of the world and the strains and variants will keep travelling across the world.” 

SIGN UP NOW

Stay up-to-date and in-the-know by subscribing to one of our newsletters