New Delhi: Almost four months after the novel coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and India, along with much of the world, went under lockdown, there is renewed hope for an expedited vaccine with promising results coming from the Oxford vaccine trials.
However, while a vaccine is still months away at best, India continues to grapple with the virus and the economic impact of the long lockdown. Many restrictions have been lifted but people continue to struggle to make ends meet.
For months, ThePrint’s journalists have been travelling across the length and breadth of India, to bring you real, eyewitness accounts of the devastation caused by the virus and the lockdown.
This week, they bring you stories from Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Gujarat doubles testing after grappling with high caseload & death rate
After several weeks of struggling under the weight of a high caseload and India’s highest mortality rate (4.5 per cent as against the national average of 2.5 per cent), Gujarat has now finally doubled its testing rate.
The increase comes after a team from the central government, headed by AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, visited the state last week.
In Ahmedabad, Dr Mona Desai, president of the Ahmedabad Medical Association, told ThePrint’s Kairvy Grewal and Praveen Jain that on an average, 6,000 tests were being conducted daily, but on 17 and 18 July, the number had even gone up to around 12,000.
However, Desai added, it was still not enough and should be four times higher.
The central team also reviewed the state’s treatment protocol. “The main treatment is oxygen therapy, steroids in mild to moderate patients, anticoagulants and prone positioning,” Dr Guleria told ThePrint. “These will save more lives than tocilizumab or remdesivir.” Read more here.
Pune traders seek govt permission to die by suicide due to lockdown hardship
As Maharashtra reels with over 1.30 lakh active cases of Covid-19 and more than 12,000 deaths, life has not been easy for Pune’s traders and shop owners due to the multiple lockdowns in the state.
As a result, many of them are now demanding government rebates or the permission to take their own lives, in protest against the city’s lockdown extension until 23 July.
While a traders’ association has said there is no option left but suicide, another group met the Pune Municipal Commissioner to demand some clarity on reopening. Other shop owners have asked for tax rebates and extended deadlines for payment of dues.
ThePrint’s Ananya Bhardwaj met a number of stakeholders in the traders’ groups as well as in the city’s municipal body. “Our business has been shut for the past 120 days, while we are still paying our rents, all taxes, EMIs. What option do we have if to not commit suicide?” said Rakesh Nibjiya, secretary at Pune Iron and Steel Merchant Association, one of the protesting groups. Read more here.
Tall claims of hygiene in Nashik, onion trains to Bangladesh to aid farmers
ThePrint’s Ananya Bhardwaj also spent some time in the Naikwadi Pura area in Nashik, which accounts for 30 per cent of the region’s total Covid fatalities. Nashik Municipal Corporation Commissioner Radhakrishna Game told ThePrint that people are not reporting cases early and are accessing hospitals at the last possible minute, increasing the fatality rate.
Game also talked about the measures introduced by the district administration to curb the arrest of the virus.
“Dirty community toilets became a major reasons for the spread, so we deputed teams to ensure that there is a two-hourly cleaning and disinfectant sprayed 4-5 times a day. Moreover, we put 400 teams on the ground to do house-to-house surveys in these areas—take an oximeter test, do a thermal scanning of each and every resident and maintain a record,” Game said.
However, his claims were not backed by local residents who said that no oximeter or thermal check was done. “The toilet is so filthy that you can’t imagine. The drains are choked, the dirt is overflowing. We complained about this to the corporation five days ago but no one has come till now. So, people now sit at the boundary or at the compound of the toilet every morning,” local resident Sheetal Akshi Poreti told ThePrint. Read more here.
Meanwhile, the Railways have arranged first-of its-kind special trains to Bangladesh to help Nashik’s onion farmers recover some of their losses and ensure their entire harvest doesn’t go waste.
Having lost almost half their produce in the lockdown, farmers approached Railways officials to help them out, suggesting that transporting some of the stock to Bangladesh will help as it is a huge market for onions.
“We took the necessary clearances… To help the farmers and traders and kick-start the business again, and, at the same time, to fulfil the essential need of the neighbouring country, we started a special train carrying onions to Bangladesh’s Darshana, Rohanpur, Birole and Benapole,” Shivaji Sutar, the chief public relations officer (CPRO) for Central Railways, said.
The first train left on 6 May and till 10 July, more than 50 such trains have gone to Bangladesh, carrying more than one lakh tonnes of onions. Read more here.