The sons of a mother in her fifties who died of COVID-19 while trying to find a hospital bed were forced to wedge her between them and drive her miles to be cremated, according to media accounts in India.
A heart-wrenching video of the men stopped by a police officer has gone viral, and underscores the human tragedy that seems to have no end in the world’s second most populous nation.
The incident happened in Andhra Pradesh on Monday, and the men chose to drive their mother on their motorbike when there was no ambulance available to take her body home to her village.
The woman became gravely ill, prompting her sons to take her in an autorickshaw to a local doctor, who diagnosed her and said she needed a CT scan to ascertain the severity of her breathing difficulties. Before they could find her a hospital bed, she died.
After her death, the autorickshaw driver asked her sons to get out of his vehicle, forcing them to act. A local police officer stopped them to question who the obviously incapacitated woman wedged between them was. In the video, he is visibly shaken as they tell him the story.
India has become the latest epicenter of the crippling pandemic, with the country reporting more than 300,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths every day. The health care system has buckled across the country. The crisis is exacerbated by shortages in critical supplies, leaving families of dying patients on their own to find hospital beds, oxygen and eventually to deal with the bodies.
Smoke from the funeral pyres fills the air in cities like New Dehli as makeshift crematoriums pop up to handle the onslaught. So far, more than 200,000 people have died with COVID-19, though many experts say the real toll is likely much higher.
Now, neighboring countries including Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh are bracing for the virus to cross borders that have been sealed too late as workers in India return home.