How celebrities are reacting to India’s Covid-19 crisis: sending prayers and oxygen tanks

Indian and Pakistani stars are speaking up, while those posting pictures of holidays have been criticised

From left: Sushmita Sen, Shoaib Akhtar and Bhumi Pednekar are among the celebrities to help as India goes through a second Covid-19 wave. 

India is currently undergoing a second – and far more deadly – Covid-19 wave.

The country has been setting world records for infection rates over the last few days, according to health authorities, leading to a situation that has devastated the medical system. There is a current shortage of hospital beds in the ICU departments, as well as a lack of medicines and ventilators. Meanwhile, there has been a flood of posts on social media asking for help be it through donations or information.

It's all led to the hashtag #IndiaNeedsOxygen trending on Twitter at the weekend.

As the situation becomes more critical, here’s a look at some Bollywood celebrities who are stepping in to help – either by highlighting the seriousness of the situation or by donating.

A number of Pakistani celebrities have also reached out via social media to send prayers and offer support in a move that has been widely hailed in both countries.

Akshay Kumar 

The Bollywood star donated Rs1 crore or Rs10 million ($133,810) to former Indian cricketer now politician Gautam Gambhir's foundation which is helping distribute free food, medicines and the much-needed oxygen to the needy. The politician tweeted his gratitude on Saturday.

"Every help in this gloom comes as a ray of hope. Thanks a lot

@akshaykumar for committing Rs1 crore to #GGF for food, meds and oxygen for the needy! God bless," he posted.

Kumar, who was hospitalised earlier this month after testing positive for Covid-19, then responded: "These are really tough times, @GautamGambhir. Glad I could help. Wish we all get out of this crisis soon. Stay Safe."

The Bollywood actor, an ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also donated Rs25 crore last year to the PM Cares Fund at the beginning of the first outbreak.

Sushmita Sen

When the Indian actress and former beauty queen saw a video of Sunil Saggar, chief executive of Shanti Mukand Hospital, Delhi, talk about how they had only two hours of oxygen left, she decided to take action.

“This is deeply heartbreaking … oxygen crisis is everywhere. I have managed to organise a few oxygen cylinders for this hospital but have no way to transport it to Delhi from Mumbai … please help me find a way,” she tweeted.

Thanks to some helpful “Twitter friends” who “went out of their way to make it happen”, the oxygen cylinders were moved to the Delhi hospital from Mumbai, she later informed her 6.3 million followers.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas 

The Quantico star has been using her verified Twitter handle to shed light on the crisis through a regular stream of informative tweets.

From ambulance service numbers throughout India to district-wide bed availability in Telangana, the star has keep her tweets short and to-the-point, only using the hashtag #CovidIndiaInfo to highlight critical information.

Katrina Kaif

The actress, who was recently diagnosed with Covid-19 herself, has created an Instagram Story highlight titled Covid-19 Updates that she has been updating with information on everything from Covid call centre numbers to what foods she believes are best eaten if tested positive.

Wasim Jaffer

The former Indian cricketer has been putting his Twitter account to good use. "Hello Twitter, please suggest what I can do as a public figure with a verified Twitter account to help in this fight against Covid. All suggestions welcome. If it is in my power, I'll do it. PS: Please see my liked tweets and help those in need," he tweeted on Saturday.

Ever since, he has been helping people in need reach the correct authorities.

Bhumi Pednekar

The Indian actress has tweeted asking all those who need help to send in the below details.

She has since been reposting or getting her team to contact those they can directly help.

Amit Sadh

Sometimes silence can speak volumes, which is what Kai Po Che actor seems to be going for. Because of the current crisis in India, Sadh announced that he would be going offline, as he believes his "posts and reels of gym sessions" and other "silly things" will not heal or entertain anyone.

Instead, he urges everyone to reach out to the underprivileged and acknowledge the seriousness of the pandemic.

Shoaib Akhtar

The former Pakistani cricketer has been widely praised for encouraging his fans in Pakistan to come forward and help India tackle the ongoing crisis.

"India is really struggling with Covid-19. Global support needed. Health care system is crashing. It's a pandemic, we are all in it together. Must become each other's support," he tweeted along with a video urging people to donate and raise funds for India.

Momina Mustehsan

The Pakistani singer-songwriter has urged Pakistani officials to “help our neighbours”.

“As cases in India soar to highest global daily and second highest in total, it is bound to put strain on resources. This is humanity versus the virus. Our battle against Covid is intensifying, but can we share to help our neighbours?” she tweeted.

Ali Zafar

One of Pakistan’s biggest singers, Ali Zafar, has sent prayers.

“Prayers for India. We are with you in these difficult times,” he tweeted along with the hashtag #PakistanStandsWithIndia.

Backlash against celebrities holidaying

Over the last few months, there has been a steady stream of celebrities heading to exotic beach destinations for holidays. Famous names who jetted off to the Maldives include Tiger Shroff, Disha Patani, Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, Janhvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan.

While jetting off to far-flung destinations amid the crisis has been seen as part of the "new normal", the new wave has led to a rise in anti-vacation sentiment against those celebrities who have been posting happy holiday photos on social media while the country has been gripped by a crisis.

Indian columnist Shobha De reposted words from publicist Rohini Iyer calling out stars for being blind and tone deaf, and showing off their privilege.

"For all of you vacationing in Maldives and Goa and exotic locales, remember, it's a holiday for you. It's a pandemic all over. So, don't be an insensitive idiot and post pictures of your privileged life," the post reads.

"It is the height of vulgarity to flaunt those ridiculous pictures. Enjoy Maldives by all means. You are blessed if you can get such a break in these bleak times. But do everyone a favour ... keep it private," De said in the caption.

Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui has chimed in, criticising celebrities who have been sharing vacation pictures. In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, he called on them to "have some shame".

“I don’t know what their arrangement is with the tourism industry. But for the sake of humanity, please keep these vacations to yourself. There is suffering everywhere. The cases of Covid are multiplying. Have a heart. Please don’t taunt those who are suffering.”