NEW DELHI—Days before Nikita Goel had planned to get married, she and five family members tested positive for the coronavirus, including her parents and 86-year-old grandfather. “I felt like a roof had fallen,” she said.
Her father and grandfather were soon fighting for every breath, and Ms. Goel, suffering fever and coughing fits, was the one sent to find help from an overwhelmed healthcare system collapsing around her. “I suddenly felt I was left alone in the world, alone to save my family,” said Ms. Goel, 28 years old.
The wave of Covid-19 sweeping India has hit hard and suddenly, swallowing entire families and neighborhoods and, in many cases, leaving the sick to care for the sicker. Those still healthy risk infection in crowded pharmacies, clinics and hospitals trying to find medicine and medical help for loved ones.
Ms. Goel and her family live in Bareilly, a city in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which has among the highest numbers of Covid-19 cases of any state in India. The nation has a 1.9% vaccination rate and on Sunday reported more than 3,600 deaths and 390,000 new cases, numbers that public-health experts say likely undercount the toll because so many people are dying outside overfilled hospitals.
After beating back a virus surge last year, India was unprepared for the magnitude of the current outbreak, particularly in such states as Uttar Pradesh, which has a population of 237 million. Doctors there say beds are full, staff and oxygen is in short supply and medications to treat Covid-19 aren’t available. The state government acknowledged its hospitals are at maximum capacity and that Covid-19 cases among medical staff have hobbled efforts to treat the sick, but it rebuffed reports of oxygen shortages and any undercounting of deaths.