The Catholic bishops of India blamed the government’s “complacency” and “negligence” for the recent surge in COVID-19 infections in the country.
“It can be said that the main cause of this tragic situation is the complacency of the government and the lack of conscience (of the) public,” said Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu, president of the Health Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
“Negligence is putting a strain on everyone while the country struggles with a record rise in infections,” the prelate told Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides.
He said there has been “a great error of evaluation by the government and the general public” on the situation, adding that “little attention” has been paid to social distancing while the government “ignored the application of the rules.”
The prelate said the government should have considered that many in India are poor and prolonged isolation can result in “misery for the poorest.” Relaxing the implementation of the rules, however, resulted in the “tragic national emergency,” said the archbishop.
Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal of Indore in Madhya Pradesh state reported that “many are dying” in his diocese. “I know an entire Christian family that was infected and died,” he said, adding that even one young bishop has been brought to hospital.
At least 14 Catholic priests in India have reportedly died in recent weeks due to COVID-19. They were among the more than 20 priests who died due to the virus over the past month, according to online news site Matters India.
Jesuit priest Cedric Prakash told Agenzia Fides that the situation across India “is in a state of chaos.”
“People are dying from lack of medical supplies. Patients queue for treatment for hours, while the crematoria are unable to accommodate and dispose of the many corpses,” said the priest who lives in Gujarat in western India.
“The government is blatantly lying about official figures of the sad reality. Often cases of deaths and infections go unreported,” said the priest. “Time is running out for everyone. The federal and state governments must act quickly to save the country from the pandemic,” he added.
Father Prakash said the country is “facing the brunt of the calamity due to its inability to limit unnecessary public gatherings such as huge crowds … such as sports, politics or religion.”
He said crowds continue to gather to watch cricket matches, attend political demonstrations ahead of the elections, attend wedding celebrations and Hindu religious rites and gatherings.
On April 26, India ordered its armed forces to help tackle surging new coronavirus infections, as nations including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged urgent medical aid to try to contain an emergency overwhelming the country’s hospitals.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the situation in India is “beyond heartbreaking.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all citizens to get vaccinated and to exercise caution amid what he called a “storm” of infections, while hospitals and doctors in some northern states posted urgent notices saying they were unable to cope with the influx.
In some of the worst-hit cities, bodies were being burnt in makeshift facilities offering mass cremations.
The southern state of Karnataka, home to the tech city of Bengaluru, ordered a 14-day lockdown from April 27, joining the western industrial state of Maharashtra, where lockdowns run until May 1, although some states were also set to lift lockdown measures this week.
The patchy curbs, complicated by local elections and mass festival gatherings, could prompt breakouts elsewhere, as infections rose by 352,991 in the last 24 hours, with crowded hospitals running out of oxygen supplies and beds.
India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has an official tally of 17.31 million infections and 195,123 deaths, after 2,812 deaths overnight, health ministry data showed, although health experts say the figures probably run higher.