India COVID crisis: Philadelphia man worries for relatives after devastating surge

Tuesday, April 27, 2021
India Covid crisis: Philly man worries for relatives after devastating Covid surge
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President Joe Biden says the U.S is determined to help India as it grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases. Some Philadelphia residents with families in the country say the situation is "getting out of control."

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The United States is "immediately" stepping up efforts to assist India as the country battles record COVID-19 cases and deaths, overwhelming hospitals and leading its health system and other essential services towards collapse.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan placed a call to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of India on Sunday to offer aid in their fight against the coronavirus.

NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne said the U.S. is "working around the clock to deploy available resources and supplies" and "sources of specific raw material" that are required for Indian manufacture of Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine being made in India, "will immediately be made available." The U.S. Development Finance Corporation will also help expand the capability of BioE, India's vaccine manufacturer, to help produce more of the life-saving vaccine.

Vincent Emanuel of Northeast Philadelphia has many relatives in India. He, like many other Indian-Americans in Philadelphia, which has the 9th largest number of Indians in the nation, worries for the well-being of his family.

"It is getting out of control and the hospital system is taking such a beating on this. I'm just afraid and I'm scared for the families left back there," said Emanuel.

India's surge came after it loosened restrictions and public complacency set in. The outbreak has overwhelmed New Delhi's hospitals. With highly contagious variants, the outbreak threatens to extend the pandemic itself, creating an enormous viral pool that could become a breeding ground for new and potentially dangerous mutations.

"It has been a very very worrying time for all of us because there is absolutely nothing we can do from here except maybe send money or offer prayers," said Dr. Anjali Sahay, who sits on Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.

On Monday, President Joe Biden pledged to provide a range of emergency assistance, including much-needed oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics.

Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey says he spoke to India's ambassador to the U.S. and pledged to do all he can to help.

"It's not clear yet what that is, but I wanted to make sure he knew that in their hour of need that we're standing with them," said Murphy.

Paresh Birl, president of the Council of Indian Organizations in Greater Philadelphia, was gratified to hear that Presiden Biden and other local officials are pledging to help.

"This is an issue where we all are in it together, it doesn't matter which part of the world it happens. It is certainly good to see and thank you to the Biden administration," said Birl.

India has a population of 1.3 billion people and government officials say only 1.5% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

-- ABC News contributed to this report.