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How India’s COVID-19 crisis became the worst in the world

15 Jun, 2021

PUNE, India — Mohanish Ellitam watched helplessly as his 49-year-old mother’s oxygen levels dipped dangerously and she gasped for air. “I could see her stomach rising and falling,” Ellitam said. “I was so scared.”

Watching his mother’s health deteriorate, Ellitam knew he couldn’t wait any longer. But in Shevgaon, a small town in the state of Maharashtra, health care facilities were limited and already overwhelmed with people suffering from COVID-19. He frantically called friends, family and almost everyone on his contact list with connections to the region’s hospitals. After nearly 100 calls, on April 12 Ellitam finally found a spot at Surabhi Hospital in Ahmednagar, nearly 60 kilometers from his hometown.

But there was no room for relief just yet. His father, 53, also started growing tired and breathless. While his father stayed isolated in a hotel room opposite the hospital, Ellitam lived out of his car parked nearby, and the frustrating search for another hospital bed began.

“I was in a helpless state,” he said. “I felt alone. I broke into tears many times.”

This is what it’s like to be in the hardest-hit state in the country now hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. Although Ellitam’s father secured a bed in Surabhi Hospital a day later, scenes like this — and far worse — are playing out hundreds of thousands of times every day across India. As its second wave of COVID-19 sweeps through, India recorded more than 400,000 daily new cases on May 6 — the largest single-day spike in the world — and its highest daily death toll of 4,187, a day later. Those numbers are predicted to soar even higher in the coming days.

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