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Monday, September 21, 2020

‘Rising numbers not a worry, Haryana focused on keeping fatality rate down’: Additional Chief Secretary

Haryana’s Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Rajeev Arora, tells The Indian Express how amid the current scenario, the state’s priority remains keeping the fatality rate as low as possible.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Chandigarh | August 30, 2020 1:32:45 am
COronavirus cases, Covid fatality rate, Rajeev Arora, Chandigarh news, Haryana news, Indian express newsHaryana’s Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Rajeev Arora.

Over the last one week, Haryana has started witnessing a sharp surge in daily numbers of new coronavirus cases across the state. After Gurgaon and Faridabad, several other districts have started reporting more than 100 new cases on a daily basis. Haryana’s Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Rajeev Arora, tells The Indian Express how amid the current scenario, the state’s priority remains keeping the fatality rate as low as possible.

How do you see the cases rising across Haryana?

Basically, the coronavirus infection is travelling. Earlier, most of the cases were coming from NCR, including Gurgaon, Faridabad and Sonipat primarily. The testing levels in these three districts were quite high as compared to the other districts in the state. Across the NCR, generally, numbers have come down. The recovery rate in Faridabad is 92.8 per cent, while in Gurgaon it is 90.46 per cent. It is even higher than Delhi. Even in these two districts, the daily numbers have come down to 110-120 daily, while earlier it had even crossed 200-250 on a daily basis. In other districts, we have ramped up our testing, thus the numbers are rising. In May, our daily average testing across Haryana was 2,930 tests, 5,000 in June, 11,000 in July and in August we crossed 16,000 tests per day. In fact, last 2-3 days, the daily testing is around 22,000-23,000 samples. Our positivity rate is 5.68 per cent. If the testing has almost doubled in the last one month and the positivity rate remains same, the higher numbers will automatically get reflected in the daily Covid-bulletins. In Haryana the testing per million population is 42,448 samples and it is increased on a daily basis, while the national average is 32,626 samples, in Punjab it is 36,328 and in Delhi, it is 90,938 samples. If I talk about Gurgaon and Faridabad, the two closest districts to Delhi, this testing per million population is above 1 lakh samples. In Haryana, the Covid-positive rate is 5.67 per cent, while the national average is 8.58, in Punjab it is 4.89 and in Delhi it is 11.09 per cent. In terms of recovery rate, Haryana’s recovery rate is 82.04 per cent against national average of 76.28, while Delhi has 89.40 and Punjab has a recovery rate of 66.80 per cent. Even in terms of fatality rate, in Haryana it is 1.09 per cent against the national average of 1.82, while it is 2.60 per cent each in Delhi and Punjab.

How is the state preparing its health-infrastructure for future?

We do a “GAP analysis”, analyse the ongoing trend across the state, review it and then project the figures for a month ahead. We are well on target. In a day or so, we will analyse and set our projections for September 30. The required infrastructure is available in abundance, at least six times that we require till August 31. We plan our infrastructure a month ahead, do detailed analysis and set a projected figure of the cases and infrastructure we may require. As per our projections till August 31, we require 887 isolation beds with oxygen facilities while we have 5,908 beds available, against 445 ICU beds required we have 2,216, against 148 ventilators we have 1,080 available. With this analysis, we keep ramping up our infrastructure and keep on shuffling our resources across the districts, depending upon the requirement and future projections. The rising number of new cases is not much of a worrying sign, but the state’s priority is to keep the fatality rate as low as possible.

Are we in the stage of community transmission in Haryana?

We are public health administrators. Community transmission stage arises when we are unable to find the reasons of a person getting the infection. As on today, we are able to find the reasons that where a person might have got it from. Normally, it is said that if we manage to find 10 contacts, it is a good thing. We emphasise a lot on contact tracing. As on date, we have 96 per cent contact tracing across Haryana. In fact, in most of the districts it is above 95 per cent. For instance, it is 100 per cent in Faridabad, Rewari, Bhiwani, Jhajjar and Ambala, Sirsa (99 per cent), Gurgaon, Palwal (98 per cent), Sonipat, Hisar, Mahendragarh, Kaithal (97 per cent), Nuh (96 per cent), Jind (95 per cent), Panchkula (93 per cetn), Karnal and Yamunanagar (90 per cent). In other districts too, the contact tracing is going on and soon 100 per cent targets will be achieved. The average number of contacts traced per positive case is the highest at 24.7 in Faridabad, followed by Gurgaon (13.4), Jind (12.4), Ambala (9.3), Kaithal (8.9), Nuh (8.1), Hisar (8.1) and so on. Also, in the coming few days, we are also going to release the Sero-survey findings that is going on across Haryana since August 15. Things will be more clear then.

What does Haryana’s Covid-positive rate indicate?

Four districts including Gurgaon, Faridabad, Jhajjar and Sonipat are the worst affected, so far. But, the Covid-positive rate of the entire state and of these four districts that touched a peak between June 15 to July 1 , is now on a substantial decline for the last over 90 days. In Faridabad, the positive rate peaked to 14.94 per cent on July 15. It came down to 10.04 per cent on August 28. In Gurgaon, it peaked to 13.05 per cent on July 1, and is down to 6.88 on August 28. In Jhajjar it peaked to 5.77 per cent on July 15 and came down to 2.52 while in Sonipat it peaked on July 15 at 6.88 and came down to 5.27. Overall Haryana’s Covid positive rate peaked on July 15 at 5.91 per cent and has now come down to 5.67 per cent.

What about the available health infrastructure to combat rising cases?

We have an adequate health infrastructure. In total, we have 45,998 quarantine facilities, 10,715 isolation beds, 2,245 ICU beds, 1,092 ventilators, 2,79,803 PPE kits and 7,02,878 N-95 surgical masks available across Haryana. The state has a capacity to conduct 18,970 tests on a daily basis and new RT-PCR testing laboratories are being set up.

Why this flip-flop on re-imposing restrictions on shops/ malls etc?

These decisions are taken at different level, where the decision makers have inputs from various other departments as well. Sentiment in Haryana has always been that we were among the first states to open economic activities, who agreed with all the guidelines of Centre and have been conducting high number of testing. But, this does not mean that people start taking it business as usual and stop taking adequate precautions. Thus, enforcement is required sometimes. Due to prolonged restrictions, people also start getting a bit reckless. When the lockdowns are lifted, social gatherings start becoming indiscreet. The government thought that economic activities must keep going, but at the same time, we need to remember that we are yet not out of the infection and need to avoid such social gatherings for the time being. People must continue to take precautions. There was a feeling that people who work throughout the week generally do their purchases on weekend. So, the days of shutting down of shops were changed from weekends to Mondays and Tuesdays. As such offices continue to remain shut on Saturdays and Sundays. This way, we have a restricted flow of people out of their homes for four days in a week.

Is Haryana facing any shortage of funds to deal with the pandemic?

Each and every person who turns out to be positive, there is a huge social, human and financial expenditure the state incurs. All those people who can’t afford treatment, health department of Haryana is paying for their expenses. But, the good part is that we have never faced dearth of funds while dealing with the ongoing pandemic. In fact, the first grant of Rs 41 crore we got from Chief Minister’s Corona Relief Fund. Even after that, there has been no shortage of funds. Some money has come from Centre too, some money from Disaster Relief Fund. As and whenever health department has required funds, it has been promptly given to us.

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