On Tuesday, India reported 1,61,736 new Covid-19 cases, with 10 states accounting for the most number of fresh infections. These 10 states are Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala.
Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox
The five states with the most number of active cases now are Maharashtra (5,66,278), Chhattisgarh (98,856), Uttar Pradesh (81,576), Karnataka (76,004) and Kerala (47,914), according to the data updated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare at 8 am on Tuesday. These five states cumulatively account for 68.85 per cent of the total number of active cases in the country now.
But why do these five states have such a high number of active cases now, what steps are they taking to tackle the Covid crisis and what challenges do they face?
On Monday, Maharashtra reported 51,751 Covid infections and 258 deaths. Lower numbers at the start of the week are said to be due to lower testing numbers in the weekend.
Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said that a formal decision on imposition of a lockdown in Maharashtra is likely to be taken by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after a cabinet meeting on April 14.
State minister Aslam Shaikh has said the government will come up with fresh restrictions to curb the coronavirus spread on Tuesday itself. “The CM has already spoken to members of the Covid task force. He also held discussions with political leaders including those from Opposition parties, and with members of industries. We tried a weekend lockdown, night curfew and other measures. We will come up with fresh guidelines today to break the chain of transmission. There will be a standard operating procedure for the entire state, which will be announced (on Tuesday) itself,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.
On April 10 and 11, Maharashtra completed its first weekend lockdown, with only essential services being allowed to operate during that time.
On April 4, the state government had announced a number of restrictions to control the spread of infection, including daily night curfews from 8 pm to 7 am and a complete lockdown on weekends beginning 8 pm on Fridays and continued until 7 am on Mondays.
The state government has also allowed 30 per cent funds allocated for district planning committees to be utilised to combat Covid-19. The decision was taken at a meeting convened by Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Ajit Pawar.
Some of the major challenges for Maharashtra are high hospital occupancy and problems with oxygen supply.
For instance, a 43-year-old woman from Kondhwa died on Monday morning after her family’s efforts, for over seven hours, to find an oxygen bed in civic and private hospitals in Pune city proved futile. The woman had been unwell for a few days and had undergone a Covid test on Saturday.
The central teams sent by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in surge districts of three states of concern found occupancy rates of available hospital bed capacity are very high in Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Nandurbar. It also found that medical oxygen supply was an issue in Bhandara, Palghar, Osmanabad, and Pune while malfunctioning ventilators were reported by teams in Satara and Latur districts.
It also found that there was an acute shortage of healthcare workforce in Aurangabad, Nandurbar, Yawatmal, Satara, Palghar, Jalgaon, Jalna districts, while the testing capacity in Satara, Bhandara, Palghar, Amrawati, Jalna and Latur districts was overwhelmed, resulting in a delay in reporting of test results.
To tackle the Covid crisis, the Chhattisgarh government has announced a total lockdown in several districts amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, according to All India Radio news. Some of these districts are Rajnandgaon, Bemetra and Balod, Raipur, Durg, Jashpur, Koriya and Balodabazar.
The lockdown in Raipur and Durg will last till April 19. During the lockdown period, all shops, including those selling liquor, and commercial establishments have been closed. Only essential services have been allowed to function.
The central team sent to Chhattisgarh found that hospital bed occupancy rates are high in Balod, Raipur, Durg, and Mahasamund districts. The district administration needs to ramp up hospital infrastructure and other logistical requirements. Shortage of remdesivir and low molecular weight heparin needs urgent attention in Korba district.
There is also the problem of limited oxygen availability in Raipur while the districts of Durg, Jashpur and Rajnandgaon are facing a shortage of healthcare workers. It also found that that patient referral in Durg district is being hampered by unavailability of adequate number of ambulances.
In some videos on social media, bodies were seen lying on stretchers outside the mortuary of Raipur’s Dr B R Ambedkar Memorial Hospital (DBRAMH), the state’s biggest government-run hospital.
State Health Minister T S Singh Deo told PTI that the overall situation is “very concerning” and the sudden rise in the number of cases and deaths has posed a challenge for authorities.
“The district administration and the municipal corporation have been asked to ensure the bodies are cremated at the earliest,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh has recorded its highest-ever single-day spike of 18,021 Covid cases in the past 24 hours and the death toll has increased by 85, officials said on Tuesday.
With number of cases on the rise, the state has imposed a night curfew in the districts of Shravasti, Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Allahabad, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Bareilly and Muzaffarnagar.
The lax attitude of the people and shortage of hospital beds remains a point of concern.
During a review meeting on Saturday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said at least 2,000 ICU beds should be available in Lucknow, and an additional 2,000 Covid beds be arranged in the next one week. He directed that Era Medical College, TS Mishra Medical College and Integral Medical College be transformed into dedicated Covid hospital.
He also directed Lucknow DM that at least 30-35 contacts of every person testing positive should be traced and tested for coronavirus. Lucknow Police Commissioner has been directed to ensure that no more than five people are allowed inside any religious place at a time. Action is to be taken against those not wearing face masks.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Tuesday said he has called an all-party meeting on April 18 to discuss the rising number of Covid cases.
The Karnataka government has announced a night curfew for 10 days beginning April 10 in several parts of the state. “Night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am every day from April 10 to April 20 will be imposed in Bengaluru, Mysore, Mangalore, Kalaburagi, Bidar, Tumkur and Udupi-Manipal,” Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said.
Shortage of beds in private hospitals across Bengaluru remains a point of concern.
Official data identified four other districts — Kalaburagi, Mysuru, Bidar and Tumakuru — as contributors to the overall caseload with a high incidence of new cases and fatalities.
Experts have said that social distancing norms are being flouted at will in many places, which is leading to the Covid surge. For instance, police took 130 people into custody on Sunday for allegedly participating in a rave party at an estate on the outskirts of Alur taluk in Hassan district.
Kalaburagi DHO Dr Rajashekhar Mali blamed “a sense of complacency” among the general public in the district for the recent surge.
Kerala on Monday announced fresh restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the state. Similar to the national picture, there has been a surge in new infections in Kerala, with the positivity rate climbing to 12.53% on Monday. At a high-level meeting chaired by the chief secretary, it was decided to bring in fresh measures to curb the movement of people.
Hence, public meetings in open spaces cannot be attended by more than 200 people while those in closed spaces shall have attendance not exceeding 100 persons. The duration of such meetings should not exceed two hours. The restrictions would apply to weddings and other functions. Instead of ‘sadyas’, Kerala’s traditional meal served on banana leaves, arrangements should be made to offer guests packed food.
Restaurants and shops across the state can operate only till 9 pm. In restaurants, only 50% of the seats can be occupied at any given point. Measures to provide packed food, instead of dine-in facilities, to guests can be encouraged. Shopping festivals and discount melas at malls are prohibited.
The Kerala chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has said that the surge in cases across the state is a result of the flouting of ‘break the chain’ norms implemented by the government during the recently-concluded Assembly elections.
Social distancing norms were flouted during campaigns for the Assembly polls, which are believed to have led to this recent surge in infections. A similar spike in cases was reported after local body polls and Onam last year.
(With inputs from PTI)