Danish Siddiqui via Reuters

Danish Siddiqui via Reuters

A 67-year-old man hailed as the “coronavirus warrior” for giving last rites to more than 1,300 COVID-19 victims on a volunteer basis has died from the virus after being unable to find medical treatment.

Chandan Nimje—a former government worker—was given a mayoral honor for his tireless dedication, but when he contracted COVID-19 in early May, he was refused a hospital bed in a government facility, the Times of India reports.

Instead, his family finally found treatment in an expensive private facility, but by then it was too late. Nimje died on May 26 from complications of the virus. His family believes he contracted the virus at a vaccination center in late April. The day after the jab, he started showing symptoms. Within a week, all five members of his family tested positive.

Nimje worked with volunteers for the last 18 months of the pandemic, taking bodies to cremation facilities when families were too afraid of contracting the virus to take them. There he performed last rites on the bodies before cremation.

His family spent their life savings on private medical care, including an injection of Tocilzumab, which is commonly used on patients in India, hoping they could save him. “We approached everyone, not only for financial help, but also for a bed and medicines, but no one responded,” Arvind Rataudi, a fellow volunteer told the Times of India. “We approached Nagpur Municipal Corporation commissioner, collector and other top officials but no one helped the person who went out of the way to provide dignity in death to over 1,300 citizens.”

India has struggled to contain a devastating third wave of the pandemic, but the wave has finally peaked, and the risks have begun to fall. Daily infections are still averaging 100,000, but that is down from more than 400,000. The country recorded more than 340,000 deaths since the pandemic began, but the true toll is thought to be much higher.

The government under Narendra Modi has been criticized for its handling of the response and mismanagement of the vaccination program. The Delta variant, first identified in India, is now the dominant strain in the U.K. and other countries.

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