As India continues to record more than 300,000 new cases of COVID-19 every day, a Ballarat doctor has told of the horrors that people on the ground are facing.
Breaking the 400,000 mark for new cases on Friday, the country has also recorded more than 3000 deaths every day for the past week.
Meanwhile, the Australian government last week banned all repatriation flights from India until May 15 and threatened citizens who do circumvent the ban with thousands of dollars in fines and years-long jail terms.
Friends of India Network president and Ballarat Base Hospital consultant anaesthetist Dr Sanjay Sharma has been directly affected by the dire situation and has been in touch with friends and family who are suffering physically and emotionally.
Dr Sharma said classmates he attended medical school with in Delhi were currently suffering from the virus or had lost loved ones to it.
"I went to medical school in India in Delhi, so one of my batchmates, his wife had COVID. She was being looked after at home, he's a GP himself so he was looking after her at home, managing at home," he said.
"Her saturation dropped, started dropping to 80, 85 [per cent] and then they started looking for a hospital bed and imagine in a city with resources like big metropolitan Delhi, and with their connections, they couldn't find a hospital bed.
"Finally, one of our other batchmates who works in a big hospital in Delhi, he helped out, he got a hospital bed for her.
"She sort of was improving for the first two days and then she started deteriorating and she actually passed away. She was only 57, 58."
Dr Sharma said there were queues in the streets of people needing to cremate loved ones.
"One of my other friends... his brother-in-law passed away in the morning and the wife passed away in the evening, so my friend's sister and the husband both died on the same day from COVID and their son actually had to cremate father in the morning and mother in the evening," he said.
"There are makeshift crematoriums that have been created because... the crematorium is not able to actually handle the load that they're getting so there's a queue.
"If somebody wants to cremate some family member, they're given a time which may not be the same day, it may be the next day or something.
"That's the kind of magnitude of the tragedy and chaos and absolute horror that's going on."
IN OTHER NEWS:
Dr Sharma said there was even an issue with the stigma of the virus making it hard to find people to help with cremation.
"It's very, very hard for people to deal with all this," he said.
"It's almost like if somebody gets infected, there's also that stigma and people don't want to even talk to you or come close to you and all those kind of things are happening as well, so if somebody in the family dies of COVID and they don't have enough people to actually take the body for cremation, even that is becoming an issue.
"There are huge, huge issues going on. It's not a simple thing to put in words."
Meanwhile, organisations and sportspeople have spoken out against the federal government's travel ban penalties.
Ballarat Indian Association president Elangovan Shanmugam while he could understand the need for a travel ban, the penalties were excessive.
"Because the situation in India is getting beyond what we can comprehend, a travel ban is okay because it's short term but some serious things like jail terms seem very drastic," he said.
"It's too harsh. At the same time, you want to protect all australians here too but you don't have to take that kind of drastic action."
"I don't think people are trying to come through the back door, most people don't do that."
Mr Shanmugam said many of the Indian-Australians who were currently in India were there to help older family members through the crisis.
"Many in our community are young people so some of them have left mum and dad back home and that's really a concern. They're vulnerable people and with the situation so drastic, they've gone back to help because there are no other family members to help," he said.
"If the government has a good plan in place to bring people back after the May 15 deadline, that will be really positive."
Two local fundraisers are currently running to send oxygen concentrators to makeshift field hospitals and also help Care Australia provide on-the-ground support in India.
To donate to the Friends of India Network's oxygen concentrator project, visit tinyurl.com/FIN-BALLARAT.
To donate to the SMS India COVID Appeal, visit makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/SMS-56783938
Our team of local journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the Ballarat community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: