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‘A precarious situation’: St. Bernards doctor reacts to COVID-19 surge in his home country

Updated: May. 9, 2021 at 6:02 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Coronavirus cases in India continue to shatter records.

The South Asia country saw over 400,000 confirmed cases Friday and while the government there is rushing to find solutions, several here in Region 8 also have their eyes on what can be done.

“Most of the big metropolitan cities, big densely populated cities have been affected badly to a point where there are no hospital beds for people to go to,” St. Bernards Dr. Abhijit Shivkumar said.

Shivkumar, director of the hospital’s internal medicine residency program, has lived in Jonesboro for 11 years, but his home is in Bangalore.

He said the news coming from India has been nerve-wracking.

“It is scary, not only what you hear on the news but after talking with family and friends,” he said. “It kind of puts everything in a precarious situation.”

Friday, India reported a new record of 414,188 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours.

Shivkumar says he can’t ignore the crisis facing his home country, especially with several family and friends there.

“Obviously, it is really nerve-wracking when you’re here and you’re kinda helpless,” Shivkumar said. “My uncle just earlier this week had suffered stroke-like symptoms and there are no hospital beds available.”

The country is scrabbling for beds and even oxygen. The oxygen demand has jumped seven times as COVID-19 cases soar.

“The lack of oxygen not only just hampers the treatment plan, but it also creates panic in general populations that are not yet sick,” Shivkumar said.

The official daily death count has stayed over 3,000 for the past 10 days and experts believe that figure is an undercount. It has been a tough pill for Dr. Shivhumar to swallow.

“You want to do a lot of things. You can’t. You can’t travel there. There has been a complete travel ban,” he said. ”All you can do is just keep in touch with them and give them [family and friends] guidance.”

Guidance for a country that once was on a strict lockdown and had a low count of cases. Shivkumar says part of the reason they are seeing the surge is they got too relaxed.

“When the cases were surging here, their numbers were dropping,” he said. “That led to some complacency among the public and the government itself. Also, the strict lockdown was very unpopular.”

While there isn’t much he can physically do, he says the “best thing everyone can do is get themselves fully vaccinated.”

He is even sending this message to those here in the states.

“We should not get complacent here and it will affect other nations if we don’t take steps,” Shivkumar said. “We might get back into a similar scenario that we were late last year.”

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