JUST as things are improving here, and the excitement of seeing normality return, I got the call from my relatives in India panicking about a situation that is spiralling out of control.

It’s been a very difficult time for me and my family who have been watching and hearing about the devastating surge in cases and deaths in India. The news has been triggering in many ways.

I remember at the start, where we witnessed the pandemic begin in Wuhan and most of us thought it would never affect us here. We were complacent, we were naive, we were over confident but before we knew it, we too were sucked into the waves that hit us badly.

As restrictions have eased here, it’s been liberating to have choice again. It’s been a relief to have freedom of movement, the option to meet loved ones and most of all be so utterly privileged to have the vaccine programme rolling out at such an effective speed.

As a doctor, I’ve been involved throughout the pandemic and I have first hand seen the progress we have made and I see the hope that, at one point, I feared we wouldn’t have. Our light is well and truly visible but my heart just breaks to see the situation that is unfolding in India.

I have spoken to family and friends affected and their accounts of what is happening are unthinkable. People are unable to get their basic healthcare needs met due to a completely overwhelmed system.

With a lack of oxygen – an often taken for granted life-saving essential – people are turning to the black market and paying astronomical prices for potentially fake drugs. When your loved one is sick, you would do anything to help.

My aunt said her neighbour sold some gold jewellery to a dealer, on the assumption that she was getting an oxygen cylinder for her father, but after the deal was done her gold was taken and she received an empty cylinder. It is a harrowing reality that is happening right now.

I have found it very hard to stomach what’s going on. Part of it has been a sense of loss. India is like a second home to me, somewhere we visited every year. It’s where my beloved grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins live. I fear every time the phone rings that one of them might be next.

I see the sadness in my mum’s eyes as India joined the other red zone countries – “when will I see my father again?” This is a question many are asking right now who have loved ones in countries struck worse than us.

Part of my anxiety has been fear. If a sudden surge and new variant can emerge over there, it is very possible it could happen over here. Mass gatherings, rallies, prayer ceremonies etc contributed to the spike over there.

This virus is opportunistic, if we stop following our rules, we too can give rise to a replication error.

What’s happening over in India is a stark reminder to us all that this pandemic – though easing here for now – is far from over.

For us to truly enjoy freedom of movement, travel and global connections again, we need to help the world out in whatever way we can.

We have to keep transmission rates low, ensure we all get vaccinated and whilst we must absolutely enjoy our new sense of normality, we mess to continue to follow the rules and not allow ourselves to become complacent.