In the emergency room of a public hospital in northern India, a man is trying to resuscitate his mother, who recently died of Kavid-19 symptoms.
In another bed, a young man who tested positive is sitting up and trying to breathe, while two tired family members spread out on the small bed.
In Bijnor, a small town 150 km (112 miles) east of Delhi in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, a doctor on duty at the ER hospital can only appear in an ambulance or in a stream of patients behind a car.
India’s ruthless second wave has reached its small towns and countryside, spreading through a fragile healthcare system that is not equipped to deal with such a large public health crisis.
Physicians are hard to come by, intensive care units are expensive and scarce and patients are entering emergency rooms.
People are running around trying to help with everything from collecting oxygen cylinders to artificial resuscitation.
“We are trying our best, the number is big,” said Ramakant Pandey, Bijan’s top district officer. In contrast to the first wave, it is more intense, he said.
“When a person gets serious, we don’t have much time to get infected.”
On Tuesday, four people died at Bijnor Hospital within an hour, including Jagadish Singh (5 including) who arrived a few minutes earlier. His son Gajendra said he brought him to the hospital believing it would help increase his oxygen levels.
At the hospital he said he ran trying to get oxygen and then he lost his father.
Dr Naresh Johri, who was driving the ER with two assistants, said he was not in a position to speak to the press as per the rules of service.
Medical Oxygen has become a major concern for top hospitals in Delhi and other major cities as they have failed to deliver life-saving gas due to patient crashes.
The government is now trying to arrange supplies from abroad and from local industries. Though the situation in Delhi has improved, small towns like Bijnor are struggling.
Many decide not to go to the hospital believing that they will not be taken care of. In the village of Alu Alu, 11 miles from Bijnor, Shakil Ahmed’s family members were reciting the Qur’an while breathing.
“We’re trying to avoid hospitals, we don’t believe in the system,” his brother Bhure Ahmed said.