Maha surge due to relaxations, migrationUpdated: Jun 29, 2020, 02:42 IST
MUMBAI/New Delhi: On June 27, Maharashtra reported 6,368 new Covid-19 cases, a record single-day spike not only for the western state but for any Indian state as well. This was the fourth consecutive single-day spike record for Maharashtra, India’s worst-affected region that has seen 164,626 infections. From June 24 to June 28, excluding the record on June 27, Maharashtra recorded 3,890, 4,841, 5,024 and 5,493 new cases.
In the past week, until June 27, the state recorded more than 4,400 new cases a day on an average, compared to 3,400 the week before that. The doubling rate of cases – the number of days it takes for a given number of infections to double –dropped from 24 days a week ago to 22 days as of Saturday.
The positivity rate, too, showed no signs of slowing down. Two weeks ago, the state had an average positivity rate of 20.6%. Since then, it has slowly, but steadily been rising despite a big increase in daily tests — on June 27, the positivity rate stood at 22%. This means that the more samples that the state tests, the more the positive cases it detects.
In the two other states with high caseloads – Tamil Nadu and Delhi –the positivity rate has declined as testing has been ramped up,. In Delhi, the average positivity rate dropped from 30.7% two weeks ago to 18.7% on June 27. The corresponding number dropped from 12.2% to 9.9% in Tamil Nadu.
The number of average daily tests increased from 14,000 to 20,000 in Maharashtra; 18,700 to 30,000 in Tamil Nadu; and 5,200 to 18,000 tests in Delhi in the past two weeks. Maharashtra tested 26,628 samples on Sunday, the highest since the first case was detected on March 9.
Mumbai’s cases have plateaued, albeit with a caveat – the number of tests have not risen significantly. Mumbai’s share in the state’s overall cases has fallen from 59.49% on May 28 to 45.89% on June 28. Simultaneously, districts like Pune, Dhule, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Nashik and Solapur, among others, recorded an almost 10-fold rise in cases, say state-appointed district health officers. Relaxation in the national and state lockdowns and migration of workers are the main reasons behind the surge, they say.
“In May, most cases were reported from Mumbai and Pune. We had eight orange and five green districts. Now, we don’t have any green districts due to rising Covid-19 cases,” said Dr Pradeep Awate, epidemiologist and state surveillance officer. “Districts like Nanded, Osmanabad, Beed and Bhandara have shown a 100% rise in the number of Covid cases in a month.”
HT spoke to 10 district health officers (DHOs), and each of them said that cases surged primarily due to a relaxation in the national and state lockdowns and the human migration from metropolises to smaller cities and villages.
Dr Aniruddha Athalye, (DHO), Satara, said, “We have recorded 42 Covid-related deaths, but 40 of them were migrants from Mumbai who died within a few hours of admission in hospitals due to delay in treatment.” According to him, Satara has 1004 Covid-afflicted people, but 80% of them are those who came from Mumbai, Pune and Uttar Pradesh.
In Latur, of the 275 total Covid-19 cases, 95% are migrants. “With the relaxation in the lockdown, several migrants returned home. Gradually, asymptomatic infected people started spreading the disease to their family members. We had zero cases in the first week of May,” said Dr G Garaghe, DHO. Latur had 303 cases on June 28.
In Dhule, people got infected while trying to provide food and water to the migrants on Mumbai-Agra highway. “Though it was a noble cause, 45 people contracted the infection,” said Dhule DHO Dr Shivendra Shagle. “Those cases were just the beginning. Soon, it started spreading among others.” Dhule has 962 cumulative cases on June 28, up from 129 a month ago.
All DHOs HT spoke to said the general public did not follow physical distancing norms since lockdown relaxations on June 3. “The national lockdown relaxation was implemented for economic reasons, but people are behaving irresponsibly. We are therefore unable to break the infection chain. We have asked the state to extend the lockdown,” said Dr AR Gita, DHO of Aurangabad where cases have increased to 4,833 (June 28) from 1,370 (May 28).
Activists blamed the state’s rigid testing policy. Dr Athalye said asymptomatic migrants didn’t qualify for a swab test for diagnosis. “Later, these carriers infected more people. If we had tested them earlier, we could have controlled the spread,” he said.