Daughter in UK fears for 82-year-old mother in India as Covid spreads

Max McLean, PA
·3-min read

A woman living in London has said she feels “angry and frustrated” at being unable to help her unvaccinated 82-year-old mother in India as Covid-19 cases soar.

Sumita Singha – an architect, author and non-executive director at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – moved to the UK from India in 1988.

India was added to the UK’s travel red list at 4am on Friday, meaning arrivals from the country must now enter quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days.

Sumita’s mother Namita Sinha, 82, lives in Delhi with Sumita’s sister in an apartment which she has not left for months.

Namita Sinha, 82, (right) with her best friend and two grandsons in pre-Covid times
Namita Sinha, 82, (right) with her friend and two grandsons at a festival in pre-Covid times (Sumita Singha/PA)

Mrs Sinha was recently offered the Covishield vaccine, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India.

While the family were discussing whether she should take it however, a new wave of Covid cases in India convinced them it was best for Mrs Sinha to stay in her flat and reduce her risk of exposure.

“It’s so bad that the newspaper man is not even coming in, they’re chucking the newspaper over the gate,” Sumita, 56, who said she was not speaking on behalf of the NHS, told the PA news agency.

“We can’t afford to let my mum get ill. I just feel very sad (and) a bit unable to help her.

“I feel sort of embarrassed because I’ve had the Covid vaccination here. I work for the NHS, so it’s kind of ironic that I’ve got the vaccination and I have means for regular testing, but my own mum is not able to access all that.

“We don’t want her going into any hospital environment, for her own safety – but there are people in greater need than us.”

The country’s underfunded health system is struggling amid the world’s worst coronavirus surge.

More than 16 million cases have been confirmed so far in India – a country of nearly 1.4 billion people – second only to the United States.

Among those to have died recently are some of Mrs Sinha’s neighbours.

Meanwhile, Sumita said she has heard stories of damaging superstitions.

“People don’t wear masks all the time, there’s a rumour going around that Indians are immune to Covid,” she said.

“I think it’s people’s way of coping, they create these little superstitions – it’s very unfortunate because there are people who are not well educated and they tend to believe that that’s actually true.

“Indian doctors and nurses and clinicians are working really hard, they are inundated.

“It’s really quite heart-rending to see. The Indian population is 1.4 billion – that’s a lot of people.”

Sumita’s mother – who she calls twice a week – remains upbeat however.

“My mum is a wonderful human being,” she said.

“I spoke to her a couple of days ago and we were just kind of joking and she said something like ‘prayers and luck.’

“She’s always cheerful, I’ve never seen her cry actually – she’s a really tough person.”