Hyderabad: Covid-19 cases in Andhra Pradesh (AP) have shot up by over 400 per cent in the last 20 days. Of the 1,10,297 cases so far, over 50,000 have been reported in the last one week alone, according to state government data.
While the state has ramped up testing to about 50,000 samples a day, the virus has spread across rural areas in all districts. Since 23 July, the East Godavari district has reported the highest number of cases on a daily basis.
The Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government as well as experts say the spurt is driven by the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown. However, they claim there is no cause for worry since the higher number of cases comes amid increased testing in the state, and is an outcome they expected.
‘Peak likely in 2-3 weeks’
According to the health bulletin released on 9 July, Andhra Pradesh had 23,814 cases. As of 28 July, the number of cases stood at 1.10 lakh, and the number of samples tested at 17,49,425.
“There has been more testing, so positive cases are higher. We have 1 lakh cases, yes, but we have also tested 16 lakh people,” said Bhaskar Katamaneni, commissioner for health and family welfare in Andhra Pradesh, earlier Tuesday.
“Cases have gone up due to Unlock (lifting of restrictions) and we have conducted a lot of tests in containment zones. We had anticipated a higher positivity rate and I don’t see any problem as our tests daily average is at about 50,000,” he added.
Asked about the daily surge witnessed in East Godavari, he pointed out that the district’s population of 50 lakh is the highest.
As things stand, the state has a bed capacity of 39,000 to treat Covid-19 patients, including 4,300 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and 17,300 non-ICU oxygen beds, mostly in government hospitals.
The state government, Katamaneni said, also has an agreement with some private hospitals, wherein it will pay for patients who avail of treatment for Covid-19 at the establishments.
For other ailments and conditions, he added, there are over 6,000 more beds in government hospitals across the state.
Katamaneni said the state government is doing its best to ensure that people with comorbidities are identified quickly so that their lives are not in danger.
“Different states peak at different times. We night be two or three weeks away from it,” he told ThePrint.
On 28 July, 7,948 people tested positive for Covid-19, out of 62,979 tested. Data from the Andhra government suggests that, of the state’s 5.34 crore people, 17,49,425 have been tested.
Between 22 and 28 July, fresh Covid-19 cases averaged at about 7,300 a day, with 24 July registering 8,147 infections, the highest daily spike in AP to date. AP’s positivity rate (the share of samples that test positive among the total tested) is 6.3 per cent, while its mortality rate is 1.04 per cent.
Covid-19 has killed 1,148 people in the state, with the number of recoveries recorded at 52,622 as on Tuesday.
‘AP has been very sincere’
Dr B.R. Shamanna, a professor at the School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad, said what is happening in AP was expected. “If you really look at it, AP has been one of the first states that was doing high testing. When there is too much mobility, this is bound to happen (increase in cases). You can’t control people using physical distancing and other measures,” he added.
“Places in the state like Tirupati, Kurnool, Anantapur, etc have too much mobility because the lockdown has ended. But AP has been very sincere with respect to reporting, and they have capable people at the helm,” he said.
Compared to Andhra’s testing rate of 32,761 per million, Telangana’s average stands at just over 9,000. The latter state, carved out of Andhra in 2014, had conducted a total of 3,79,081 tests as of 27 July, with the total Covid-19 cases standing at 57,142.
Rakesh Mishra, director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, said Andhra’s numbers are a “primitive indicator and not anyone’s fault”.
“We should not get too worried or relaxed. What the state government says is partly true (about numbers increasing due to higher testing), but what is more important is if we are testing enough. If they are testing large numbers and the positivity rate is about 5-6 per cent, then they are doing a good job,” Mishra added.
The Andhra government’s Covid response has been among the better ones in India, with the state placing emphasis on wide testing from the early days of the pandemic. Since May, the state has launched multiple mobile testing labs that offer free tests to residents and results within 48 hours.