As Covid protocols of social distancing and wearing of masks were thrown to the wind by Diwali shoppers thronging markets, Ahmedabad saw a surge in cases, with hospitals coming under pressure again and demand for medical oxygen going up across Gujarat. However, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) on Thursday announced a change in testing policy, reducing the numbers. It notified that only those with symptoms could take the rapid antigen test in AMC facilities and those tested shall be marked with indelible ink.
On the other hand, the AMC gave in to popular sentiment and extended the time of functioning of popular shopping and dining hubs in 27 stretches of the city till mignight, against the earlier window till 10 pm. The decision came on Wednesday, when Ahmedabad district reported over 200 Covid cases, the highest in two weeks.
In the past week, most of the days, over 160 cases were reported in AMC limits and on Thursday, for the second consecutive day, it recorded over 180 cases of Covid-19. AMC officials as well as private practitioners admitted that “cases are seeing a significant surge, since the past week”.
Ahmedabad-based radiologist Dr Asutosh Dave, who is the president of Gujarat chapter of the Indian Radiological and Imaging Association, and head of the department of radio diagnosis at Gujarat Cancer Society, where 400 beds have been designated for Covied patients, said, “Increase in cases and decreased testing won’t help the community… In the past week, hospital admissions have increased and since Wednesday, AMC stopped referring patients for HRCT (chest CT scan)…”
Earlier a person who tested negative despite showing symptoms, would be referred for a chest scan at AMC’s expense.
AMC health officials as well as standing committee chairperson at AMC, Amul Bhatt, attributed this restriction on testing to “an already stressed system of healthworkers and doctors” and “limited resources of hospital beds, testing kits and staffers”.
According to him, “long queues at testing kiosks along with staff shortage and limited testing kits” were the primary reasons behind limiting testing.
As per the latest ICMR guidelines of September, it was suggested that rapid antigen tests should ideally be used for testing “100% people living in containment zones… particularly in cities where the transmission of infection has been widespread”.
Across the state, per-day demand of medical oxygen went up on Thursday to 135 metric tonnes, compared to an average of 129 metric tonne consumption per day, last week. In September, when Gujarat was reportedly seeing a peak, medical oxygen consumption stood at an average of 241 metric tonne per day, according to Food and Drug Control Administration Commissioner (FDCA) HG Koshiya.
Gujarat Medical Education and Research Society (GMERS)-run civil hospital at Sola, saw cases going up three times. Dr Pina Soni, medical superintendent at the hospital, said, “There is fatigue among our doctors and health workers…we have seen an increase in Covid-19 cases. On November 1, we had 80 cases admitted, on November 9 it went up to 149, and as on today we have 207 patients admitted… there will also be burn victims once the firecrackers start.”
Of late, AMC has been adding less than 10 micro containment zones each day. According to a health official working in the south zone, which ranks among the top three zones with the highest number of cases, six temporary testing kiosks are available in the zone, apart from the 17 urban health centres.
According to the official, “People would want to get tested saying, ‘I’ve to go out of station’ or ‘my office has asked me to get tested’. Such demands become unreasonable… Current home quarantine rules say that even if one person tests positive from a single household, all members have to stay at home for 14 days…what is the point of testing such people then? It only creates panic and we see demands from asymptomatic positive patients who want to be hospitalised.”
With crowding at several spots in the city, AMC health department anticipates a surge in cases over the next weeks. Bhatt said, “It is not possible for AMC teams to reach each and every shopping site… people must exercise self-discipline.” Officer on Special Duty at the AMC, Rajiv Gupta, and municipal commissioner Mukesh Kumar did not respond to calls.
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