With government-run ambulances scarce, Mohammad Aamir Khan began ferrying dead bodies amid mounting pandemic deaths.
India’s coronavirus case tally passed 6 million on Monday after it reported 82,170 new infections in the last 24 hours, as the pandemic rages across the vast South Asian nation.
With 6.1 million infections according to the health ministry, India is on course to pass the United States in the coming weeks as the country with the most cases.
COVID-19 deaths rose by 1,039 in the last 24 hours to 95,542, the ministry said, which is 1.6 percent of total infections.
The nation of 1.3 billion people is home to some of the world’s most densely populated cities and has long been expected to record a large number of COVID-19 cases.
India has been adding 80,000 to 90,000 new infections each day since it started reporting the world’s highest daily rises from late August.
The infection is well-entrenched in the community
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called on people to keep wearing face coverings when they venture out of their homes.
“These rules are weapons in the war against corona. They are potent tools to save the life of every citizen,” Modi said in his monthly radio address.
The virus initially hit large metropolises including the financial hub Mumbai and national capital New Delhi but has since spread to provincial and rural areas where healthcare systems are fragile and patchy.
Despite the continued march of the illness, the government is unlikely to reimpose the lockdown it has gradually lifted, after the harsh restrictions battered the economy and wrecked the livelihoods of millions of people, particularly the poor.
Some schools have reopened, and trains, metros, domestic flights, markets and restaurants have been allowed to operate with restrictions.
Anand Krishnan, a community medicine professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, said the focus should be on treating people who contract the virus.
“The infection is well-entrenched in the community,” he told AFP news agency.
“The only thing that we can do is take care of people who are ill – identify them faster and treat them better. And follow the social-distancing norms. Beyond that, I don’t think there is anything specific that can be done.”
Some residents AFP spoke to in Delhi said that, while they remain cautious, their fears about the pandemic had lessened since the start earlier this year.
“I’m out of the house all day because of my work. I don’t step out of the house for anything else,” said 23-year-old medical store worker Umang Chutani.
“The future is uncertain but one can only be cautious and follow all safety protocols.”
Himanshu Kainthola, 61, who recovered from the virus last month after testing positive along with two other relatives, said his family’s fears “have reduced substantially”.
“We have made peace with it. We take the necessary precautions and invest in increasing our immunity rather than being anxious or scared of it.”
Creative writing student Santosh added that the virus was now “part of our lives”.
“You cannot shut down every business, because the economy cannot collapse… COVID-19 is not going to pay the rent,” he told AFP.