Highest single day spike as Gujarat crosses 10,000-mark, amid slow response
Gujarat became on Saturday the third Indian state to record 10,000 Covid-19 infections, reaching the milestone in 58 days. According to state health department data, 350 cases on an average have been reported every day in May as compared with 143 infections a day in April.
On Saturday night, the total number of cases in the state stood at 10,989, behind Maharashtra’ s 30,706 and ahead of Tamil Nadu’s 10,585 — the two other states with over 10,000 cases. The Saturday’s increase of 1,057 Covid cases was highest single-day spike in Gujarat as over 700 vegetable vendors tested positive in Ahmedabad.
On May 1, there were 4,721 Covid-19 cases in the state. The increase of 6,268 till the May 16, put the doubling rate of the infection at 11.9 days. India’s current doubling rate is 13.9 days, according to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.
On Saturday, fatalities in Gujarat reached 625 with 5.68% death rate. While the national average is 3.02%, 6.21 (West Bengal) with 160 fatalities and 6.1 (Madhya Pradesh) with 239 fatalities are the states with highest death rate.
An official in chief minister Vijay Rupani’s office said the government was testing every symptomatic person, has enforced a hard lockdown, created additional medical facilities in all major hospitals, and deployed additional medical personnel in containment zones.
“We are conducting round-the-clock monitoring of containment areas and have prepared a medical database of all persons above 60 years of age in the state. Effective monitoring is the best way to check Covid,” said Ashwini Kumar, secretary to the chief minister.
The first patient in the state was reported from Ahmedabad on March 19. He returned from Dubai a week before his test results came in. According to the Ahmedabad municipal corporation, between March 1 and March 15, around 6,000 people returned from overseas locations.
“Those with symptoms were tested as per the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) protocol, and the rest were asked to remain in home quarantine,” said an official of the civic body who did not want named.
Then on March 20, a video went viral on social media, showing a West Asia returnee shopping for vegetables in an Ahmedabad market. Several other videos surfaced, purportedly showing people who were supposed to be in home quarantine moving out of their houses.
The first reaction of the Gujarat government to Covid-19 was slow and many people did not abide by guidelines of the lockdown, which was imposed on March 25 to slow the spread of Covid-19, according to Vidyut Desai, the chairman of Academy of Medical Sciences, which is a body of health care professionals.
“There was no complete lockdown and contact tracing of patients was not done properly. The government failed to monitor persons coming from abroad to Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodra, which contribute 90% of all cases in the state,” he said.
“The Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi also contributed to an increase (of cases) in Ahmedabad as did huge public gatherings during janata curfew,” he said, referring to the Islamic sect’s mid-March gathering in Delhi’s Nizamuddin that became a hot spot of the disease, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to observe a lockdown on March 22, but celebrate frontline health care workers at 5 pm by clapping hands and banging vessels. Some people responded by taking out processions.
The state began recording a spike after mid-April even as the government ramped up testing facilities . Between March 19 and April 15, Gujarat tested just 29,104 samples. But between then and May 15, the number rose significantly to 124,708 tests, taking tests per million in the state to 1,858.
Gujarat health secretary Jayanthi Ravi said on Friday that the high infection count could be attributed to the overhauled testing process. “We have increased the number of labs as well as our testing capacity. Gujarat was among the first states to have a private testing lab,” she said.
Mona Shah, the president of Ahmedabad Medical Association (AMA), said neither doctors nor the administration was prepared for the outbreak. Shah said a section of the infected people did not share their medical history with doctors and also pointed out that there was delay in reporting symptoms , which, she said, contributed to a high death rate.
Desai said people initially did not cooperate with health workers. He said the state started consulting health experts only when the situation deteriorated.
Health secretary Ravi said the state has adopted a multi-pronged strategy, which involves surveillance of affected areas, monitoring every person in such areas and conducting random tests. “It is wrong to say that we started late,” she said.