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Thursday, July 09, 2020

As cases rise in Telangana, state health dept points to increased movement of people

Even as the state government faces criticism over testing fewer samples as compared to most other states, health department officials maintained the official government version that all guidelines issued by ICMR are being thoroughly followed.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad | Updated: May 30, 2020 11:13:51 pm
After testing positive: 91-year-old tests negative at PGI The director of medical education, Ramesh Reddy, speaking about the preparedness of the state to treat a possible surge in the number of positive cases, said it was also the responsibility of everybody to stay away from the disease by following physical distancing and personal hygiene.

For three consecutive days now, Telangana has reported a consistent rise in the number of Covid-19 cases upward of the hundred figure mark. As the total stood at 2,425 as of May 29 night, the state health department attributed the sudden rise in numbers to three factors: a general relaxation of lockdown post-May 4, the return of migrants,
mostly from Maharashtra, and the arrival of foreign evacuees and deportees who are prisoners from Saudi Arabia.

To support the claim, the director of Public Health and Family Welfare, Dr. G Srinvas Rao shared that in contrast to 1,082 positive cases of Covid detected during the 64 days between March 2 and May 4, the state has recorded an equal 1,005 positive cases of Covid during 25 days between May 5 and May 30. “This is purely due to the increased movement of people when the lockdown was relaxed. It is quite natural that cases will be on the rise,” he said addressing the media while maintaining that there was no cause for worry.

Even as the state government faces criticism over testing fewer samples as compared to most other states, and was recently directed by the Telangana High Court to submit a report with a response to all its queries on the status of the pandemic in the state, health department officials maintained the official government version that all guidelines issued by ICMR are being thoroughly followed. Dr. Rao, when pressed for a number regarding the total tests conducted as of date, said it was over 30,000.

The director of medical education, Ramesh Reddy, speaking about the preparedness of the state to treat a possible surge in the number of positive cases, said it was also the responsibility of everybody to stay away from the disease by following physical distancing and personal hygiene. “Preparation-wise, we have taken all steps necessary. We have the capacity to treat a larger number of patients. Also, each individual has to be responsible,” Reddy said.

The daily medical bulletin from the Directorate of Public Health has, over the last few months, not fully disclosed details like number of tests conducted, details of patients and containment zones, or even total number of positive cases to date.

SARI surveillance, Mortality surveillance indicates no need to worry

Even if the state witnesses a steep rise in the number of cases, as the trend in the last few days shows, officials say they are well prepared. There is a reason for this. The two indicators, SARI (severe acute respiratory illness symptoms) surveillance and Mortality surveillance, that the Health Department followed in studying the intensity of pandemic has been more than favourable.

A senior official, on condition of anonymity, revealed that Telangana has been monitoring SARI and ILI (influenza-like illness) cases since March. “Of over 4500 SARI cases reported, those detected for COVID were only around 2.8 percent. This is extremely important because these are the patients most vulnerable to the disease. Further, our
mortality surveillance shows that the overall death rate during the last three months has declined by 30 percent. This means people have taken good care of themselves in a pandemic,” reasoned the official.

According to him, the pandemic situation in Telangana at present is much better than what was feared at the beginning and hence the situation is normal. “In Maharashtra, for example, cases skyrocketed right from the beginning. We did not have the situation because we were able to contain the spread then itself. We are sure cases will rise again in Telangana but the situation is well in control,” the official added.

The figures with the department of health and family welfare suggest that 1.5 lakh migrants have entered the state so far. This apart, the department is also monitoring 3,000 foreign evacuees and 458 deportees who are prisoners hailing from 20 Indian states and sent back from Saudi Arabia. Of all the deportees, 207 have tested positive so far.

The department has tested 1,000 migrants as of May 29, and 180 of them have tested positive. As many as 82,313 are in home isolation in their villages and are being monitored by ANMs and ASHA workers. “Most of the migrants are from Maharashtra. This means the number of positive cases will rise. We believe more than 50 percent of them are positive cases. In Hyderabad, the worry is because of the population density. But those who have returned to Hyderabad are not from Maharashtra,” added another official.

The positive cases have risen from 107 on May 27, to 133 on May 28, and 169 on May 29. However, of these 409 positive cases reported over three consecutive days, only 188 are from migrants, foreign evacuees, or deportees. The number of deaths, too, has been on a rise in the last few days, taking the total to 71 as of May 29.

Hyderabad continues to be a cause of concern with several cases being reported every day. As officials maintain that those above the age of 65 and below the age of 10 should not come out even as the lockdown is relaxed, figures suggest that more than 200 persons above the age of 65 have tested positive so far despite fully honouring the lockdown. Of the 2,000 plus persons tested positive in Telangana so far, about 65 per cent are persons in the age group between 20 and 50 years. At the same time, 90 per cent of patients are asymptomatic, said officials.

Meanwhile, the state is yet to permit private laboratories to start testing for Covid. Sources said the state would soon come up with a framework for private labs despite fulfilling the criteria put forward by the ICMR.

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