'It’s a nightmare': Saskatoon man worries for his family, business in India as COVID-19 cases surge
SASKATOON -- Bob Behari moved to Canada from India 43 years ago and says it has been hard not being able to visit his family there due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, I don’t know how many of them I will not be seeing again,” he told CTV News.
Behari, who now lives in Saskatoon, said he has already lost three family members in India within a week after they contracted COVID-19.
“It’s a nightmare over there,” he said. “We’re very concerned about what is going on, what’s happening to even our family members. Biggest challenge that they are having is there is no beds available in the hospitals, they don’t have enough oxygen or medicine.”
The situation in India is getting worse. On Friday, India recorded its highest one-day case count for a second straight day with 332,730 cases.
“We are very thankful that we live in a better, you know, cleaner environment over here and even the support system is very good over here but in India, everyone is not privileged to the same standards,” Behari said.
This comes as the Canadian government imposes a 30-day ban on all commercial and private flights from India and Pakistan.
The further restrictions, which came into effect at 11:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, come as the federal government tries to curb the spread of COVID-19 and prevent new variants from entering the country.
One of those variants is the B.1.617 variant, which was first identified in India and has been classified as a variant of interest by the World Health Organization.
So far, that variant has been detected in British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta.
Saskatoon epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine said the B.1.617 variant is being described as a “double mutant” and has been a huge contributor to India’s recent surge in cases.
That’s why he said it’s important that Canada is taking these steps to help prevent it from spreading further in the country, but said steps also need to be taken within Canada.
“It is going to spread to other provinces as well as long as there are people who are travelling between provincial borders, across provincial boarders and within a province between towns and cities,” he said.
“We are human beings, mobile creatures, but at a time like this, when we are seeing what is believed to be a particularly transmissible, particularly virulent, viral strain that might have combined mutations ... could change the complexion yet again at this very late stage of the pandemic.”
Behari, who also operates a business in India, said he typically travels there every two and a half months, but has only been able to go once in February since the pandemic started.
“I will go five, six times a year and now, for the last one year, it has truly reduced. So, that is the stress itself on me, that I’m not doing, playing my role, so I do as much as possible on telephone or Zoom, but being there makes something different, it’s a personal touch,” he said.
Behari planned another trip to India on May 15, but had to cancel it due to the travel ban — something he says is a good call.
“This is not just about me, it’s about others as well,” he said. “We have a moral obligation to protect others.”
Behari said despite the challenges and the unknowns, he is trying to stay positive and is optimistic about India’s vaccine rollout.