Raipur: As the second wave of Covid-19 sweeps the country, Chhattisgarh is one of five states contributing to 62 per cent of the total active cases in the country. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said the state would have handled the situation better had the central government issued alerts on time to prepare for a possible second wave.
According to data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Chhattisgarh recorded a total of 5,74,299 cases, with 6,274 deaths and 1,35,688 recoveries, as of 20 April. And the state continues to battle shortage of beds and increasing deaths.
Speaking to ThePrint over the telephone, CM Bhupesh Baghel said the disease is more severe this time compared to the first wave, and that this has added to the spike, for which he also blamed neigbhouring Maharashtra.
He, however, said the government has ramped up health infrastructure in the state.
Baghel also said there is no shortage of oxygen or remdesivir, the anti-viral drug used in treatment of the novel coronavirus in hospital settings, but Covid vaccines are in short supply from the Centre, which he said is affecting the state’s vaccination drive.
‘State has been hit hard’
In the last one month, total cases have almost doubled in the state, to 5,58,674 cases on 19 April from 3,21,880 on 19 March.
Baghel said the state has been hit hard in the second wave, because the Centre didn’t alert states. “During the first wave, we had sealed the borders early so we managed to contain the spread. But as far as the second wave is concerned, the Centre did not issue any alert to the states. They knew about it but they did not issue any alerts,” he said Tuesday.
He blamed neighbouring Maharashtra and the migrant population in the border district of Rajnandgaon for the current spike.
“The second issue about the second wave is that from the district of Rajnandgaon, Maharashtra starts through Nagpur. We have a migratory population there and people keep going and coming. Several families have temporary homes in Nagpur and they work there and people keep coming and going back,” he said.
“When lockdown was imposed in Maharashtra around Holi, people suddenly came back to the villages in Rajnandgaon, which contributed to the spike, which is why we saw a huge spike in April even though cases were under control in March.”
‘Second wave unlike the first’
What has added to the spike in the second wave is the severity of the disease in comparison to the first, explained Baghel.
“Last year, people would get discharged in eight days. But now symptoms are surfacing on the 8th day. Last time, the symptoms were only fever, cough, cold and breathing difficulties. But now along with all this there is a dip in oxygen levels, high fever is persisting and we are seeing blood clots, cardiac arrest, brain haemorrhage as well,” he said.
“In March, only a few dozen people required oxygen support. Now that number has risen to 6,000.”
ThePrint reported last week how there is a severe shortage of beds across the state, especially in capital Raipur.
The chief minister, however, said the health infrastructure has been ramped up since his government came to power.
“If you compare with 2018, we had only 200 ICU beds in the state in government hospitals, while now we have 554. We had only 35 ventilators, now we have 536. There were no oxygen beds back in 2018. Now we have over 6,000 oxygen beds in government hospitals and 6,000 in private hospitals. There are also 1,739 ICU beds and close to 1,000 oxygen and ventilator beds in private hospitals,” he said.
Baghel said the process of adding beds is continuing as “we don’t know when the second wave will end and when the third wave will come”.
‘No shortage of oxygen, remdesivir’
Unlike other high burden states like Maharashtra and Delhi that have been complaining of oxygen shortage, Baghel said Chhattisgarh has enough of it. “Twenty seven companies produce oxygen here and another two make liquid oxygen. We have a capacity to produce 386 metric tonnes of oxygen. Our need is 103 metric tonnes now. If this increases to 150 MT also, we will be fine,” he said.
With enough oxygen, the state is also “supplying oxygen to other states including Maharashtra, MP, Tamil Nadu”, the CM said.
Chhattisgarh is also not short of remdesivir, according to Baghel. “We are not seeing long queues and a scramble for remdesivir as (is happening) in other states. We have empowered district collectors to procure remdesivir directly. Today only, we have got 20,000 vials in addition to the 35,000 vials we had earlier,” he said.
‘Fewer vaccines coming from Centre’
On the Centre opening up vaccinations for all adults from 1 May, Baghel welcomed the move but questioned how supply would meet the demand. “They have opened vaccination for all adults but are there enough vaccines? How will production be ramped up? The Centre is mum on all this,” he said.
Chhattisgarh is already rationing vaccines, Baghel alleged. “Our capacity is 3-3.5 lakh vaccine per day. But fewer vaccines are coming from the Centre. We can’t open centres and not give vaccines, so only vaccinating 2-2.5 lakh a day, which is below our capacity.”
He also accused the Centre of first ridiculing advice from opposition-ruled states and then implementing the same. “They consider themselves to know it all. They don’t want to take advice from anyone but now they are doing everything that we suggested. I was the first to suggest vaccinations for all adults. Manmohan Singh’s letter also said that. They are doing what we suggested but won’t take our advice as they are plain arrogant,” Baghel alleged.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mazumdar)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.