With a rising daily Covid caseload Beed, Solapur emerge as new areas of concern for Maharashtra

Updated on Jul 29, 2021 12:44 AM IST

Two districts in Maharashtra — Beed and Solapur — are among 22 districts across India marked out by the Centre as “areas of concern” for recording an increasing daily Covid-19 caseload trend for the past four weeks

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ByJyoti Shelar, Mumbai

Two districts in Maharashtra — Beed and Solapur — are among 22 districts across India marked out by the Centre as “areas of concern” for recording an increasing daily Covid-19 caseload trend for the past four weeks.

Drought-ridden Beed showed a meagre prevalence of the virus during the first wave but has since recorded over 97,600 cases and 2,600 deaths to date. It also clocks some of the state’s lowest vaccination rates. Solapur, which abuts Pune, Sangli and Kolhapur — all three districts of concern in the state — has recorded over 185,000 cases and 4800 deaths to date.

“We have noted an increasing trend in these 22 districts, week on week basis. This is a cause of concern,” joint secretary of health ministry Lav Agarwal said in a media briefing on Tuesday. Besides Maharashtra, the other districts are from Kerala (7), Manipur (5), Meghalaya (3), Arunachal Pradesh (3) and one each in Assam and Tripura.

The Union ministry of health and family welfare has said that these are “areas of concern” and are constantly talking with the states about containment and early detection efforts.

“What was striking in Beed is the limited exposure to the virus during the first wave, due to stringent lockdown measures that were implemented,” said Dr Radhakrishna Pawar, the district’s health officer. “The first serological survey carried out in August last year showed merely 0.1% exposure in the population. The second survey carried out in June this year showed that nearly 41% of people had developed antibodies. The cases will keep rising till there is immunity by natural infections or vaccinations,” he said adding that they are anticipating a much severe third wave.

On July 1, Beed recorded 103 cases. The number went up to 211 on July 20 and 244 on Wednesday. The district reached a peak in August last year with the highest daily caseload touching 350. This year, Beed recorded a peak in May with the highest daily caseload reaching 1,515.

Beed’s vaccination coverage is among the lowest. The district has administered 699,483 doses as of July 28, of which merely 9500 people are in the age group of 18 to 44 and a little over 100,000 people above 45 years are fully vaccinated. “Our target adult population is 29 lakh, but we have just about achieved 18% vaccine coverage,” said Pawar adding that there has been an acute shortfall of doses, and vials run within hours of arrival.

While most positive cases were recorded in urban blocks of Beed during the first wave, officials are now recording cases among the rural population. There are instances of clusters of cases coming from villages. For example, Sabalkhed village in Beed recorded 50 cases over the past two weeks. Health officials say that lockdown restrictions are mostly on paper now, and people have given up on adhering to protocols. “Physical distancing and covid appropriate behaviour like wearing masks are completely absent now, which is driving the positivity,” said Beed based chest physician Dr Anil Barkul.

On July 1, Solapur district recorded 515 positive cases. The number went up to 615 on July 20 and 529 on Wednesday. In the last seven days of June, Solapur’s average daily positive cases were 354. “Our daily positivity rate hovered between 4% to 4.5% in June, but it gradually started rising in July between 5.5% to 6%,” said Dr Shitalkumar Jadhav, Solapur’s district health officer. The district is carrying out an average of 13,000 tests daily, but 60% of these are the Rapid Antigen Tests while 40% are RTPCR. Its vaccination coverage is also at the lower end with a target population of 36 lakh and only 914, 838 doses administered so far. “About 1.5 lakh people are fully vaccinated in the district,” said Jadhav.

He said that five talukas- Karmala, Madha, Pandharpur, Malshiras and Sangola- are contributing to most cases. These talukas are neighbouring to districts like Satara, Sangli and Ahmednagar and there is free movement between these areas after travel relaxations. “A lot of shepherds have been visiting from Satara and they have been holding small religious gatherings too. Besides, there is routine travel of farm labourers and others for work,” he said.

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