Cyclone Nisarga approaches Maharashtra amid health crisis
Maharashtra was on Tuesday bracing to face Cyclone Nisarga, which is expected to hit the Raigad district on Wednesday afternoon, even as state health officials expect the Covid-19 pandemic to reach its peak in the coming days.
The state is already experiencing a rise in cases in several districts where there were no cases in the past or very few cases after lockdown restrictions were relaxed on May 20. State health officials also expect cases to surge further in the post-lockdown scenario.
Amid this health crisis, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted damage in a few districts of Maharashtra along the west coast due to Cyclone Nisarga.
Sixteen teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), comprising 45 personnel each, are on alert in Maharashtra. Ten teams have already been deployed, while six are on standby.
Three teams were deployed in Mumbai, two each in Palghar and Raigad, and one each in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Thane, a state official said.
Kishor Raje Nimbalkar, the secretary for relief and rehabilitation, said: “We are taking all measures and precautions to tackle the situation. There is no need to worry. Districts along the coast have been put on alert and we have alerted NDRF.”
Union home minister Amit Shah held a review meeting on Monday with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and officials of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to assess preparedness for dealing with Nisarga.
Collectors in seven districts were instructed to shift all informal settlements and people living in homes with thatched roofs along the shore. Maharashtra said those shifted to relief centres must adhere to physical distancing norms in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The Maharashtra government said on Sunday beaches may open from June 3, but the state official cited above said it is standard operating procedure to close beaches during a cyclone. The state may issue an order to close beaches on Wednesday.
The official also said that though 90% of fishermen have returned home, many from Palghar are still out at sea. A total of 577 boats from Palghar district had ventured out to sea, and only 477 have returned, collector Kailash Shinde said.
Shinde asked fishermen from Dahanu, Palghar, Vasai, and Talasari not to venture out to sea. Industries, shops and commercial establishments have been shut for a day.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases in the state has crossed the 70,000-mark. Data showed Maharashtra has been recording more than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases every day for the past 15 days, except on May 24, when the figure shot up to 3,041, the highest single-day spike at the time.
On Monday, 2,361 new cases were reported, pushing the state’s case count past the grim 70,000-mark. The state’s total case stands at 70,013.
Before that, there were 2,347 cases on May 17, 2,033 cases on May 18, 2,127 on May 19, 2,250 cases on May 20, 2,345 cases on May 21, 2,940 cases on May 22, 2,608 cases on May 23, 2,436 case on May 25, 2,091 cases on May 26, 2,190 cases on May 27, 2,598 cases on May 28, 2,682 cases on May 29, 2,940 cases on May 30 and 2,487 cases on May 31.
The data further showed that 84.72% of the state’s total of 67,655 cases (till May 31), or 57,323 cases, were reported in May alone, or an average of 1,850 cases daily.
In comparison, 10,201 cases were registered in Maharashtra in April.
To put the steep hike in further perspective, the state’s first coronavirus case was reported on March 9 and it took 30 days for the figure to cross the 1,000-mark.
State health minister Rajesh Tope said on Monday the recovery rate has improved by more than 3% and the doubling rate of cases too has improved.
“The state government is trying to improve the situation. It is due to these efforts that the recovery rate has improved by 3.5% and is currently at 43.35%. The doubling rate has also increased to 17.5 days from 11 days,” he said.
“We are trying our best to further improve the recovery rate and doubling rate of cases,” he added.
Officials, however, believe there will be a surge in cases in the next few days as more people will be exposed to the Coronavirus following the ease in restrictions.
“Our concern is the rise in cases as more people will come out in red zones due to relaxations. It also means more people will be exposed to the virus and there will be more cases at the same time. This also could be the peak and that is the reason we have augmented health facilities to deal with any situation,” said a senior official, requesting anonymity.
Maharashtra has augmented the hospital bed capacity to 25,000 to treat infections in 2,576 hospitals, while the isolation bed capacity has been ramped up to 250,000 beds.