Tribal tehsil has higher Covid-19 positivity rate than Maharashtra
Amid the dip in Covid cases across the state and country, there is one region – Shahada tehsil of tribal Nandurbar district in north Maharashtra – where the weekly positivity rate is 25%, the highest in the state and even more than the state’s weekly positivity rate of 5.5%. Reason? The recent return of a considerable number of citizens from foreign countries such as the United States and Canada.
The failure of the administration to monitor and trace the contacts is to blame for the spread of the virus in around 13-14 villages in the district, according to health department officials.
Shahada has a population of 61,376, according to the 2011 Census. Although the exact number of citizens who are abroad for jobs or education from here is not known, activists say it is a common trend in the region.
The positivity rate is the percentage of positive cases against the total tests performed. The positivity rate between January 1 and 20 in Shahada stood at 27.21%, as 415 cases were reported from the 1,525 tests conducted. During the period, the state reported a positivity rate of 5.45%. Shahada has reported 3,415 of the 8,536 cases in Nandurbar since the Covid-19 outbreak. Of the 189 deaths in Nandurbar as of January 20, 68 were from Shahada.
“The tehsil located on Tapi-Narmada basin is known for its prosperity because of the fertile irrigated land. The Gurjar-Patil community holds acres of lands and is prosperous. Many villagers are settled in other countries and keep visiting their native places regularly. After the second wave in many developed countries, the inflow went up rapidly, leading to the spread,” said an official from the health department.
Health minister Rajesh Tope said the district administration has been asked to trace the contacts of the foreign returnees.
District collector Rajendra Bharud said, “We have sent the samples for genome sequencing to the National Institute of Virology in Pune to check if there is any variant strain among those infected. We have increased testing and are tracing high- and low-risk contacts. Some villages in Shahada have a high number of residents travelling to countries like the US, UK, Canada for jobs and education. We have made institutional quarantine mandatory in the districts and started testing villagers by sending on-the-wheel labs.”
Jitendra Patil of Unity Foundation, which works with sickle cell patients in tribal communities, said, “Shahada is the only tehsil to have an engineering college, a sugar factory and a textile mill in the district. Most of the farmers here hold acres of land purchased from tribals and grow cash crops like sugarcane and cotton. Many students of engineering college, which is decades old, are settled in foreign countries.”
The district administration has now reopened Covid Care Centres in Shahada and Nandurbar and allowed admissions to government, private hospitals.