Under a tree, an Indian village treats its COVID-19 patient

MEWLA GOPALGARH, India, May 17 (Reuters) – In a village in northern India engulfed by COVID-19, sick people lie on cots under a tree, glucose dripping from a branch. Cows graze all around, while syringes and empty medicine bags litter the ground.

There are no doctors or health facilities in Mewla Gopalgarh, in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, a 90-minute drive from the national capital Delhi. There is a public hospital nearby, but there are no beds available and the villagers say they cannot afford private clinics.

Instead, village alternative medicine practitioners have set up an open-air clinic where they distribute glucose and other remedies to patients with symptoms of COVID-19.

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Some believe that lying under the neem tree, known for its medicinal properties, will increase their oxygen levels. There is no scientific basis for this belief or for some of the other remedies offered.

“When people run out of steam, they have to go under trees to increase their oxygen levels,” said Sanjay Singh, whose 74-year-old father died a few days ago from a fever. Singh said his father had not been tested and died within two days.

Harveer Singh, 65, a villager suffering from COVID-19 rests in a cot as he receives treatment at a makeshift outdoor clinic, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19 ), in Mewla Gopalgarh village, Jewar district, Uttar Pradesh state, northern India, May 16, 2021. REUTERS / Danish Siddiqui

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“People are dying and there is no one to take care of us,” he said.

India’s devastating second wave of infections, which has brought even hospitals in big cities like Delhi to a breaking point, is tearing apart the country’s vast rural hinterland where healthcare is being phased out.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the subject of criticism for not preparing for the second wave, said in a speech last week that the pandemic was spreading rapidly in villages and urged people not to ignore the symptoms.

“Take the test, isolate yourself and start taking your medications on time,” he said.

But in this village, people are doing as best they can. A woman had borrowed an oxygen cylinder from a neighbor whose condition had improved slightly, her family said.

“The truth is, there has been no COVID-19 test. We tried but they told us they didn’t have enough staff, ”said Yogesh Talan, 48, a former village chief.

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Report by Danish Siddiqui; Writing of Manas Mishra; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Karishma Singh and Estelle Shirbon

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Christina A. Kroll