India Faces Apocalypse, Covid Death Toll Reaches 18 Million

"It's like we are in the middle of the apocalypse," says 40-year-old Pia Desai, who lives in New Delhi, at the centre of the coronavirus crisis that has brought India's healthcare system to its knees.

"Every family I know has been affected by Covid. It's like a horror movie, everywhere you turn someone is asking for medicine, help with a hospital bed, food, plasma. It doesn't matter who you are right now, you won't get a hospital bed."

Desai is in the 10th day of self-isolation with her family, after she and her husband tested positive for the virus. She cannot taste or smell, but counts herself as lucky. "I think I got a mild strain," she says.

"My best friend's mother-in-law was on a ventilator in a Delhi hospital, we ran around trying to get the right medication. The government says they've taken over distribution, but there's absolutely none available," says Desai, who runs a PR firm. "We searched on social media to find someone who had it in stock, but you could only find it on the black market and the prices were astronomical. You try to do what you can to help but it's like a shot glass trying to bail out the Titanic."

Her friend's mother-in-law passed away on Wednesday morning. The family have been told the crematorium is full, with a backlog of two days. Desai is upset that she cannot be there for her best friend.

"I know so many people who are in hospital at the moment," she says. It's everywhere you look."

The story of Desai and her friend is echoed by many who got in touch with the Guardian via a callout. India set a new record with 379,257 new Covid cases in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, according to the health ministry.

In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, in the north of the country, 21-year-old Kinjal...

Continue reading on: