INDIA: ‘We are paying the price for poor COVID-19 precautions’

COVID-19 aid being distributed in India (© Aid to the Church in Need):
COVID-19 aid being distributed in India (© Aid to the Church in Need):

A bishop in India has said that failure to put in place proper COVID-19 restrictions caused the current crisis – which has seen new cases exceeding 300,000 daily.

Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that lax COVID-19 safety earlier this year was to blame for the second wave.

Archbishop Couto said: “I would say we actually triggered the infections because we did not take enough precautions.

“We took it easy. Therefore, I think we are paying the price for it now.”

The Archbishop of Delhi highlighted how practically no steps were taken to prevent the spread of the virus during political campaigning last month.

He said: “Since assembly elections were taking place in five different states of our country and these were scheduled all through April, huge political rallies without any regard for COVID protocols were allowed.

“This was also because some of our topmost political leaders were fully involved in the campaigns.”

After Madras High Court reportedly said last week that the Election Commission of India (ECI) had not ensured COVID-19 guidance was followed during assembly electoral campaigns, the ECI hit back, saying this was the responsibility of state authorities.

Archbishop Couto also regretted that there had been no compulsory safety precautions for up to 50 million Hindu pilgrims visiting Haridwar, Uttarakhand last month.

He said: “A religious gathering called the Kumbh Mela, which attracts pilgrims in millions, was also allowed and COVID protocols were not enforced.”

Speaking during the festival, Dr Atulya Mishra – one of the medical officials at the Kumbh Mela – told Sky News: “People are very irresponsible, they do not follow any of the COVID-19 behaviour protocols…

“We provide them with face masks but people don’t wear them.”

Archbishop Couto added: “I would describe the situation as being very distressful, very uncertain for people, a moment of pain, suffering and anxiety for everyone because we do not know who would be next and how this virus would spread and infect people and how we can save ourselves from the infection.”

The archbishop described how three religious Sisters had died in his diocese, as well as a number of active lay people.

He also said that Holy Family Hospital – which is run by the Archdiocese of Delhi – has been confronted with an “overwhelming number of cases” and faces a constant shortage of oxygen.

Archbishop Couto said: “We don’t know how the next day will unfold.  It is only our faith that keeps us going.”

ACN has provided more than £320,000 in support of 27 projects providing subsistence aid for priests and Sisters to help them continue caring for those hit by the COVID-19 crisis.