Away from the multitude of reports about the coronavirus situation in major urban centres, Durg – a small town in a Chhattisgarh district of the same name – is at the heart of an untold crisis.
The district is the worst-affected in a state that faces a massive spike in Covid infections as a second wave threatens to go on the rampage.
At the local mortuary the bodies are piling up – 38 people have died in the last seven days. At hospitals doctors are overwhelmed – over 6,000 have been infected in the last seven days.
With the authorities unable to cope with the flood of infections and deaths, the state has announced a complete and week-long lockdown in the district, but that only starts on Tuesday.
The situation at a 500-bed government hospital in Durg is particularly worrying.
The mortuary here has eight freezers but 27 bodies, and doctors say they are struggling to hand them over to relatives as soon as possible.
“So far no alternate arrangements (to deal with the Covid crisis) have been made. We have been informed about dead bodies piling up in the mortuary… we are probing this,” Dr PR Balkishor, the Chief Medical Superintendent for Durg, told NDTV.
“Every day four to five people are dying of Covid. It is because, in most cases, the patients get admitted in critical condition… when oxygen levels have fallen to 40 or 50 per cent,” he explained.
Dr Balkishor also revealed a shortage of medical staff and, in what could be a problem for people suffering from other diseases and illnesses, said: “We are trying to withdraw non-Covid services.”
Away from the mortuary, similarly heart-breaking scenes can be witnessed at a local crematorium, where shocked relatives in PPE suits perform the last rites of their loved ones.
The visuals are a rerun of the horrors that emerged during India’s first Covid wave – when scenes like these were reported across the country.
The proposed week-long lockdown may not be enough to fully stop the virus from spreading.
In the past fortnight Chhattisgarh’s active caseload have risen by an improbable 369 per cent – from 6,753 on March 20 to 28,987 on April 2… and things seem to be getting worse.
The centre on Friday night listed the state as one of 11 marked “grave concern”. Days earlier a central team of medical experts were rushed to Chhattisgarh to help combat the virus.
The spike in cases is not particular to Chhattisgarh – Maharashtra is the worst-affected state with tens of thousands of new cases now being reported per day – but it is an emergency of critical proportions.