It would be an understatement to say that it is a tragic time for those in India and Indians around the world.
The descriptions that I'm hearing of its severe symptoms are so varied that it doesn't feel like the same illness across the board. Some can't even figure out how they got the infection as in their minds they have not come in contact with anyone who they thought was infected.
With every day going past, there is this silent hope that the coronavirus infection numbers will start to drop, but hearts sink each day seeing India reach records of numbers of people dying or reporting positive.
For a generation that is connected so closely through technology, the ache of distance for Indians all over the world outside of India is beginning to set in. Due to Covid-19, the pain of being away from extended family is felt from both sides. There are multiple instances of families where a family member is unable to get back to even their immediate family away from India as they are stuck in India or where families be beside their dying loved ones during this chaotic and distressing time.
Covid-19 has made India so helpless that, despite all the international help, it just doesn't seem enough. Many organisations and community groups are contributing in so many different ways which India, Indians all around and the wider communities will always be grateful for.
Unfortunately, some see this to be a problem just for India. It is easy to say it's India's own fault by letting those recent state elections and rallies happen. No matter how valid the criticism is, it is not going to help anyone there struggling to get oxygen or people in the hospital queues waiting for a bed.
Moreover, let's not forget politics is the same all over the world. For example, while announcing the postponement of the General Election here in New Zealand last year due to Covid-19 by just about a month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was very clear in saying that she had no intention of any further delays and that the Electoral Commission was preparing for, if needed, holding an election in level two or three lockdown.
We were lucky in so many ways. The situation in India is very different.
Basically, every reason you could imagine for the virus to take over, is there in India, allowing for it to be so relentless. To start, the virus has 1.3 billion people available to it as a possible breeding ground, with so many of the 1.3 billion so easily accessible due to limited social distancing.
If we do the maths quickly, based on country area and population levels, if New Zealand was equivalent to India, New Zealand would have around 106 million people. Imagine adding another 100 million people when you are sitting in traffic, out for a walk, or strolling in a mall.
Despite all its shortcomings, the world's largest democracy with its own complexities and multiple layers in the system, India has managed to come out of all types of crises and it's time again for India to prove itself and fight off Covid-19.
The international community is continuing to do its part but now India needs to take lead.
India did the right thing by donating vaccines to other developing countries when it felt it could, but now the biggest service that India can do to protect the entire world, while strengthening its medical response to all those ending up in hospital queues, will be to first vaccinate its own population as soon as possible.
As for the New Zealand Government, the biggest gesture of kindness would be to help reduce the pain of distance by following Australia and starting repatriation flights from India to help stranded New Zealand citizens.
There is also the option to take it a step further by including New Zealand permanent residents on these flights, who went to India for a short trip leaving their spouse and/or children here but have now found they have no way back home.
To re-unite families that have been split apart like this is the right thing to do.
If Australia believes they can do it without compromising their own safety then New Zealand should be able to do so too.
• Dr Parmjeet Parmar is a former Member of Parliament and Families Commissioner.
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