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Canadians watching COVID-19 crisis in India, trying to help family back home

Last Updated May 5, 2021 at 6:31 pm EDT

MONTREAL (CityNews) — Starting every day by getting bad news from back home in India is taking a toll on Montrealer Navjot Singh.

Singh is one of many Canadians left worrying about family members in India as the country battles through a catastrophic COVID-19 crisis.

“One of my mom’s cousins passed away,” said Singh. “One of my dad’s cousins, she’s in hospital right now. We are just trying our best. One of my cousins’ mother-in-law. So if we talk about our relatives — our uncles and aunts — we do hear almost every day some bad news.”

Singh’s parents are in Montreal and have been staying with him since January. Turning on the television and watching Indian news channels to see how the COVID-19 situation in India is unfolding is part of the family’s daily routine.

Singh’s sister Amanpreet and his extended family are all living within the epicentre of the virus in New Delhi.

Montrealer Navjot Singh poses with his sister Amanpreet in this undated photo. Singh is watching India’s COVID-19 crisis unfold from Canada, while Amanpreet is in New Delhi. (Credit: Navjot Singh/HO)

“People are panicked,” said Amanpreet. “The oxygen available is less than the demand. Every day we’re used to hearing bad news from friends or family that they are gone.

“There’s a shortage of beds in the hospitals. People feel helpless, like they can’t do anything for their loved ones. They are dying in front of them.”

India is experiencing a vast coronavirus outbreak, with 382,315 new confirmed cases and 3,780 reported deaths in the last 24 hours, in what is widely believed to be an undercount.

WATCH: Calls for nationwide lockdown as India tops 20M cases (May 5, 2021)

“New cases hovering around 400,000 a day,” said Dr. Ananya Tina Banerjee, an assistant professor at McGill University. “When we hear these figures, you always need to multiply them by 10. The reason being is the counts and cases and deaths have been underreported in India.

“Unless someone has a COVID test, unless they are hospitalized, that’s the only way they will be accounted for.”

While thousands of kilometres away, Singh is trying to do his part to land a helping hand. He is part of an international non-profit organization, Khalsa Aid, which mobilizes volunteers in Canada and on the ground in India.

“What we in Canada came to know is that it’s possible for people to have oxygen concentrators being installed at their houses,” he said. “This week, we will be shipping hundreds of concentrators from Canada to India.”

READ MORE: Winnipegger organizing oxygen concentrator drive to help India battle COVID-19 wave

Experts from around the world have also come together to create India COVID SOS — a document of at-home COVID-19 care tips in 12 different languages. Those experts have also called for more effort on the vaccine equity front for low-income countries.

“I’m really urging, the Canadian government needs to do more,” said Dr. Banerjee. “Pledge of $10 million, know the scale is much more in order to get India out of the second wave — multi-billion-dollar effort.”

WATCH: India set to surpass 20 million confirmed COVID-19 cases (May 4, 2021)