West Bengal’s Covid-19 case count increased to 95,554 on Sunday as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc, with Purba Medinipur and five other districts emerging as new areas of concern apart from the infection epicentre in South Bengal.
The state added a massive 20,038 infections — the highest till date — to its caseload this week, and reported a record 381 deaths.
However, despite the massive additions to the case count and deaths, both the average weekly growth of infection and the case fatality rate (CFR) registered marginal declines. The infection grew 3.8 per cent, down from 4.08 per cent the week before, while the CFR came down from 2.22 per cent to 2.15 per cent as a result of the surge in cases.
The doubling rate of infection — calculated over seven-day average growth — slowed down further from 17 days to 18.5 days.
Though the spread of infection slowed, the recovery rate stalled this week, showing signs of reversal for the first time in over two weeks. On Sunday, it declined marginally to 70.24 per cent. The weekly recovery rate, which was a massive 89 per cent the week before, fell to 72 per cent.
Another worry for the state health authorities is the upward trend of the overall test positivity rate, which was 8.64 per cent Sunday. At the start of the week, which saw the number of daily tests increase to 25,000, it was 8.18 per cent. The weekly positivity rate, however, declined from 13 per cent the week before to 11.7 per cent.
An analysis of the districts showed that the epicentre comprising Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, and Hooghly continued to record a bulk of the cases (65 per cent) and deaths (329). In this infection hotbed, the pandemic was the deadliest in North 24 Parganas, which alone accounted for 204 fatalities. The district’s fatality rate now is 2.32 per cent, while Kolkata the CFR is 3.4 per cent.
Though the situation in Darjeeling district continued to remain alarming — it registered the highest weekly addition of 16 deaths — the condition was more grave in Purba Medinipur district down south.
At present, Purba Medinipur has the highest active caseload outside the epicentre with 1,044 patients, up from 363 at the end of last week. This month, the district has added 1,033 cases, or 87 per cent of the infections it had recorded in all of July. Worryingly, the district’s recovery rate has fallen from a healthy 72.39 per cent at the end of July to 58.36 per cent.
The infection growth has also picked up in Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Dakshin Dinajpur in North Bengal, and Paschim Bardhaman. Cooch Behar added 462 cases this week, whereas in July the total caseload was 406. In Alipurduar, 215 cases were added, compared to the 165 added in July.
A health service doctor in Alipurduar said, “We have now started to properly trace the Covid-infected people. We increased testing among frontline workers and others vulnerable to getting infected. That gave us optimistic results and as a result the positivity rate also increased.”
The situation has again deteriorated in Dakshin Dinajpur, where the situation was deemed alarming three weeks before the recovery rate rose. It added 503 cases this week (651 since the start of the month). Though the district had added 941 cases last month, there was a sustained period of recovery towards the end. On July 31, its discharge rate was a healthy 79 per cent, but by Sunday that had collapsed to 65 per cent.
Paschim Bardhaman added 681 cases this week, while in July it had recorded 667 cases. The situation has also comparatively worsened in Jhargram. Till July 31, it had reported only 28 cases. It was also infection-free. But, on Sunday, the district had 43 active cases, having added 51 infections this month.
A health official attributed the rise in cases in these districts to increased testing and tracing since July last week, saying, “Rapid testing started from July 28. After that, the number of samples tested per day increased significantly and as a result the caseload increased in these districts.”
A senior health official said emphasis was also being laid on building infrastructure to contain the virus.
“Already we are trying to increase hospital beds in these six districts. In Jhargram, although minimal outbreak happened, now the situation is changing. After seeing this, we are giving extra importance to increasing bed and hospital facilities there.”
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