In response to the Gujarat High Court’s observation in an earlier order that Surat’s “delayed response” in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak led to the situation in the district move from bad to worse, the state government in a report submitted before the court on Monday clarified that the Surat’s migrant population posed unique challenges.
The report submitted by government pleader Manisha Shah stated that Surat witnessed “challenging times” during the pandemic owing to “limitations imposed by the lockdown, unpredictable clinical course of illness and need for isolating Covid-19 patients,” given that the city was “uniquely” faced with the challenge of “protecting approximately 11.5 lakh migrant workers with over 12 linguistic communities residing in close congested habitats.” The state further submitted that while a rising trend was seen in Surat between June 30 and July 10, the district is now “in a far better position to defeat the pandemic,” and that the same can be seen in the trends between July 4 and August 10.
The high court had directed in an earlier order that daily district-wise tabulated data of Covid statistics, including ‘total deaths’ and ‘deaths where deceased tested Covid-19 positive’ be published in all newspapers so as to make public aware of the spread of the virus and there is no complacency.
However, the state in its report submitted that all deaths at the New Civil Hospital, Surat, which includes Covid and non-Covid deaths “during these months have been notified to the authorities concerned as per the government guidelines and are uploaded on Covid-19 portal.”
The SMC’s Covid dashboard has stopped putting out death figures and the state-managed Covid portal does not include deaths where the primary cause of death is determined to be a comorbidity, even if the deceased person was Covid-19 positive.
On July 16, The Indian Express had reported that the state health department’s record of Covid-19 fatalities for Surat had underreported 160 deaths compared to the Covid-19 fatality data made public by the local administration.
The state submitted, “district wise tabular data of total tests performed, total samples tested positive, total persons discharged, total patients home quarantined, total deaths and total deaths where deceased tested positive are published in public domain online on https://gujcovid19.gujarat.gov. in/dashboard.” The state dashboard, however, only publishes ‘total deaths’.
Among the several initiatives taken by the local as well as the state administration with respect to Surat, as was listed in the report, was also the use of Aarogya Setu-ITIHAS. The state in its report stated that one of the steps taken to prevent Covid-19 deaths in Surat was treating patients with convalescent plasma. Efficacy of convalescent plasma in reducing Covid mortality or duration of hospital stay remains to be proven.
The court in its order of July 24, made public on August 4, had also directed the state to increase awareness among citizens about the virus. To this effect, the state in its report submitted that a circular was issued on August 13, stipulating the formation of an ‘awareness committee’ in each district which will apprise the revenue and the health department of their activities.
The state said that apart from engaging “religious leaders, senior doctors and famous singers” to endorse for campaigns, 45 “Video Quicky” have been uploaded on various social media handles to spread awareness.
According to the health department, it has also partnered with Ashoka University for developing an interpersonal communication strategy for the state.
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