Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Documenting the death of a COVID patient outside a Delhi hospital

WorldApr 26, 2021 12:31PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
4/4 © Reuters. COVID-19 pandemic in New Delhi 2/4

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - For Reuters photographer Danish Siddiqui, covering India's second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is a daily circuit of crematoriums, cemeteries and hospitals, capturing the struggles of a nation of 1.4 billion people.

From that experience, he knew the situation at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, a government-run facility in the capital New Delhi with 400 COVID ICU beds, might be chaotic.

But he was not prepared for what he saw on Friday: critical patients gasping for air on trolleys outside the already-full hospital ICU, some dying before ever being admitted.

Siddiqui and Reuters reporter Alasdair Pal had been at the hospital for only a few minutes when a rickshaw arrived carrying Shayam Narayan, a 45-year-old COVID patient and father of five.

Narayan's brothers hauled him onto a hospital trolley and into the reception of the ICU. Just a few minutes later they were given the news: he was already dead.

The medical superintendent of the hospital was not available for comment. A spokesman from Delhi's state government, which oversees hospitals in the capital, said patients had been arriving at the GTB hospital even though it had no way to accommodate them.

"Due to an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in Delhi, all the hospitals are over-burdened," the spokesman, Pritam Pal Singh, said. "Despite this, the government is trying its best to give all patients treatment."

On the day of Narayan's death, the country's overnight infection total was higher than any recorded anywhere in the world since the pandemic began last year, for the second day running, at 332,730, according to federal health data.

Some 2,263 died, with over 300 of those in Delhi alone - figures that are almost certainly conservative, given the huge numbers of cremations and burials taking place in the country under COVID protocols, according to interviews with crematorium and cemetery workers.

India's federal government did not respond to a request for comment on the casualty figures, but a state government health official told Reuters on condition of anonymity the mismatch may be caused by several factors, including over-caution in using COVID protocols even when a person might not have been positive.

Documenting the deaths is a delicate task, balancing showing the human cost of the virus with preserving the dignity of the subject.

"A news picture is about getting the moment to tell the story. It should also be respectful of your subject," Siddiqui said. "If it's not, then we won't publish it."

In this case, Narayan's family, who were angered by a death they saw as preventable, were adamant his story be told.

His brothers had first brought him to the hospital at 6 a.m. on Friday. But they said staff deemed him well enough to return home.

Ten hours later, his condition deteriorating, they came back. But it was too late to save him.

"The system is broken," his younger brother Raj said, weeping over his body.

Siddiqui has covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was part of the Reuters team that won a Pulitzer prize in 2018 for coverage of the Rohingya crisis.

But the second wave of the pandemic sweeping across his own country is unlike anything he has faced before.

"Here you don't know who you're fighting," he said. "You don't know the enemy and you can't see it."

(Reporting and writing by Alasdair Pal; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Documenting the death of a COVID patient outside a Delhi hospital

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email