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COVID-19: 7,600km away from a worsening crisis, close-knit Indian community in Leicester take action

Written by on 1 May 2021

An Indian community in Leicester is aiming to raise thousands of pounds over the weekend to help send oxygen and fund a field hospital for victims of the growing COVID-19 crisis.

Hospitals in India are running out of oxygen and people are dying on the streets – unable to get treatment as fatalities continue to rise.

At the Swaminarayan Temple in Leicester, where people have been praying for friends and family affected, the community is embarking on a sponsored cycle and aim to cover 7,600km – the distance from London to Delhi.

Prayers being said at a temple in Leicester Image: The pandemic means the tight-knit community must pray alone at the temple

Surendra Raj, a student at De Montfort University, is among those taking part. He fears for his mother, who lives alone in a remote village where the virus is spreading.

He calls her twice a day to check she hasn’t developed any symptoms of the virus.

The last time he was able to visit was over a year ago. He wishes he could be there for her now.

Surendra said: “Who will look after her. If she gets coronavirus, who will take her the hospital?”

His sister-in-law was admitted to hospital with COVID-19 last week. For a few days, his family were afraid she wouldn’t make it.

“People are scared because there is no oxygen. The hospitals are full, so all the people are scared,” he said.

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Sanjiv Patel is leading the fundraising efforts at the temple. He has relatives in India, and is grieving the loss of his father from COVID-19.

When rates of the virus spiked in Leicester during the first wave in the UK, his whole family fell ill – including his parents.

“Myself and my father ended up in hospital in critical care and unfortunately my father didn’t make it out,” he said.

Sanjiv Patel Image: Sanjiv Patel is raising money to help send vital medical supplies, such as oxygen, to India

Sanjiv has been horrified to hear of oxygen running out at hospitals in India.

“When I was ill, the only thing that turned me around was oxygen. Understanding that whatever other facilities you’ve got, if you haven’t got oxygen supplies then your chances of survival are much more slim,” he said.

The Indian community in Leicester is close-knit. In normal times they would join together to support one another, while they worry about loved ones so far away.

But the pandemic means they must pray alone at the temple, and hope the help they can offer will reach those most in need.

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