Raipur: Chhattisgarh has witnessed an alarming 300 per cent rise in Covid-19 cases in the last month alone, with the state government blaming the spurt on increased testing, asymptomatic patients delaying being screened and people not following simple safety guidelines since the lockdown was lifted.
Just on 10 August, Chhattisgarh was among the better performing states — it was in 21st position — with 12,502 total cases, of whom just 3,386 were active. The state had by then recorded 99 deaths.
Since then, however, its Covid-19 curve has seen a near vertical climb. As of 8 September, Chhattisgarh has recorded 50,100 positive cases, of whom 26,900 are active. The last 30 days have seen total cases rise by over 37,000 while deaths have climbed to 407.
What is worrying is the active cases have risen by almost 694 per cent — from 3,386 on 10 August to 26,900 on 8 September. Around 308 people have died during this period.
Researchers had earlier told ThePrint that Chhattisgarh’s R value was a huge cause of concern. The R value is a key parameter to measure the rate of infection — an epidemic is considered to have been arrested when the R value consistently remains below 1.
Sitabhra Sinha, a researcher at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai who has been tracking India’s R value, told ThePrint, “Most worrying is the rapid increase in active cases in Chhattisgarh which has had an extremely high R consistently for more than a month now.”
Chhattisgarh has an R value of 1.35. The Covid transmission rate over the last one month has been around 1.35, making it the state with the highest effective reproduction number among the top 12 states with highest number of active cases.
The numbers effectively leave Chhattisgarh as the ninth worst affected state in the country — a jump of 12 places in just under a month.
State health department officials and doctors blamed the huge rise in active cases on asymptomatic patients not getting tested and acting as carriers. None of the officials ThePrint spoke to, however, provided an estimate of the number of asymptomatic patients in the state, but claimed that they (asymptomatic patients) began getting tested only when they witnessed symptoms or became serious.
“Although they delayed it at first, asymptomatic positive cases are now coming out to get tested in large numbers. They emerged only after their condition became symptomatic or turned serious,” said Subhash Pandey, a doctor working with the state’s health department.
Pandey is the spokesperson and data incharge of the state’s Covid-19 control and command centre. “This is also one of the reasons for the rise in deaths in the past month,” he said. “Most of the deceased were already suffering from other serious ailments, and their condition deteriorated with Covid infection. In fact, corona is causing havoc among those having diabetes.”
People not taking precautions, testing upped
Pandey also blamed the attitude in Chhattisgarh for the spread of the infection. “It’s true that active cases in Chhattisgarh have increased at a much higher rate than the other states but we were able to trace the infection caused by these hidden sources,” he said. “Apart from this, people in Chhattisgarh are still callous in their approach towards taking physical safeguards against Covid infection. With unlocking, frequent interactions at public places without face masks can be seen any time. The rise of more than 34,000 Corona positive cases in one month in a state like Chhattisgarh is indeed alarming.”
Another doctor and member of the state command and control centre, Yatharth Tiwari, said the state had improved testing rates and cited it as one of the reasons for the drastic spurt in cases. “Number of daily Covid tests has now increased from almost 8,000 to almost 12000-14000 thousand samples per day,” Tiwari said.
A senior doctor in the state health department, however, told ThePrint on the condition that he not be named, that the state was witnessing community spread.
“We cannot deny the fact that we have reached the community spread stage in the state,” the doctor said. There could be at least 10,000 untraceable Covid-19 positive cases in the state. This is good enough to acknowledge the status of community spread.”
Pandey, however, refused to accept that there is community transmission. “Although the number of untraceable cases are rising, they have not reached the mandatory 20 per cent mark of total positive cases in the state, which is necessary to declare community spread,” he said.
Other experts agree with the government’s reasons for the skyrocketing cases, but also say it cannot be absolved of blame.
“It’s true that the rise in active Covid cases for some time is due to increased number of tests and tracing of asymptomatic cases but the government’s poor management of the crisis was equally responsible,” Dr Ajit Anand Degwekar, ENT consultant at MMI hospital Raipur, told ThePrint. “They should have done this 2-3 months back. Had they done so, the situation would not have reached this level.”
Degwekar warned that the worst is yet to come.
“The government has only shifted or delayed the state’s Covid peak,” he added. “Seeing the present rate of growth, Chhattisgarh will take another two months to reach its maximum positive figures if 8-10 per cent population has to be tested as per convention.”
“They should have followed the Delhi model and taken half the number of beds in private hospitals under them to prevent the rising deaths taking place today,” Degwekar said. “Rise in deaths of patients is also an indication that Covid hospitals in the state lack the needed oxygen beds. This is a major cause of deaths of Covid positive patients in Chhattisgarh irrespective of the other diseases they suffered.”
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