Indian AU students worry for loved ones during COVID-19 crisis

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Thousands of miles from their home country, students at Augusta University are devastated by the COVID-19 crisis in India.

“Right now, my uncle, aunt and one of my cousins have COVID,” Vinaya Alapatt, a graduate student, says. “I have grandparents there who are in the vulnerable population. I am concerned.”

“My sister and father are COVID positive,” Harshit Singhania, a Ph.D. student, adds.

According to John Hopkins University, more than 21 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in India. 230,168 deaths had been reported, as of Thursday. Experts believe a variant of the virus, identified as B.1.617, is responsible for the recent the spike in cases.

“The situation is really, really bad because people are unable to get oxygen, ventilators and hospital beds.” Singhania says.

“If you have money today determines if you will be alive or dead tomorrow,” Alapatt adds.

Vinaya Alapatt immigrated to the U.S. from southern India with her family in 2012. She is now a graduate student at AU studying clinical psychology.

“I actually feel like I’m too privileged,” Alapatt explains. “I’m in the U.S. We had COVID-19 here. It’s hard for them [people in India] to social distance or quarantine. A lot of COVID protocols are hard to implement there given the nature of the population. They have a lot of people and less resources. I can wash my hands because I have running water. That might not be the case over there.”

The crisis led the White House to implement travel restrictions this week. It came just days before Harshit Singhania, a biomedical student Ph.D., planned to visit his family in India.

“It does make me sad because I am unable to meet my family,” Singhania says. “As a responsible citizen of India and an immigrant here, we have to adjust ourselves to the situation because this is much more important right now.”

Neither Singhania nor Alapatt knows when they will visit their home country again. They hopeful they will reunite with their family soon.

“Please keep us in your prayers,” Singhania asks. “We will come out of this situation soon.”

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