MP struggles to halt virus as more districts affected
One, the testing. According to the latest data available on the HT dashboard, Madhya Pradesh has tested 1828 per million of its population, lower than the national average of 2096 per million -- worrying, because the state was one of the early hotspots of the infection in India.Updated: May 23, 2020 23:56 IST
The number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in Madhya Pradesh has increased by around 3000 in the past fortnight, mirroring the national trend of an acceleration in the number of cases in this period. The state now has 6100 cases, with almost 50% of these being added in the past fortnight. More worryingly, the cases have sprad to 49 of the state’s 52 districts. Till a fortnight ago, only 24 districts were showing cases.
There are two things that stand out about Madhya Pradesh’s situation. One, the testing. According to the latest data available on the HT dashboard, Madhya Pradesh has tested 1828 per million of its population, lower than the national average of 2096 per million -- worrying, because the state was one of the early hotspots of the infection in India.
Two, the returning migrant labourers’ contribution to Covid-19 cases in Madhya Pradesh is just 4.86%, according to Madhya Pradesh health department, showing that the infection has predominantly spread locally. Contribution of migrant workers to total Covid-19 cases was 57% in Bihar and 62% in Odisha, according to data of health departments of both the governments. Around 500,000 migrant workers have returned to the state thus far.
There are reasons for Madhya Pradesh to worry. Among the six states having highest number of Covid-positive cases, MP’s death rate at 4.40% with 272 deaths, is second only to Gujarat, which has a mortality rate of 6.04%; MP’s mortality rate is 1.5 times more than the national average death rate of 2.97%, according to data released by the union ministry for health and family on Saturday morning.
The state is convinced things are improving. According to additional chief secretary, health department, Mohammed Suleman: “The R naught factor (which indicates how many people an infected person passes the infection on to) was 1.95 around April 1. This has come down to 1.27. This suggests that multiplication of the virus has reduced. The doubling rate has gone down to 17 days from 12 days. Recovery rate has gone up to about 47% . The death rate, which used to be around 6%, has come down to 4.2%. Our testing has been ramped up hugely which is about 1500 per million population now. All these are good indicators.”
Independent experts are not convinced. They are concerned that the state has walked back on its earlier plan of testing widely. According to public health expert Amulya Nidhi: “The state government’s strategy was to identify, isolate, test and treat (IITT). In the last two weeks, the infection has spread to about a dozen new districts but Madhya Pradesh is lagging far behind the testing capacity. MP has just 20 testing labs, whereas other states which have a comparable population , such as Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, have increased the number of labs to 37 and 67 respectively.”
A government official who didn’t want to be named said, “There were suggestions for massive survey, screening, collection of samples and testing in Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain in particular but administration struggled to get enough testing kits. The health minister requested the Centre at least twice to send more kits.”
One of the early hotspots of the disease in MP, and indeed, India, was Indore, once touted as India’s cleanest city. But chief medical and health officer (CMHO) at Indore, Praveen Jadia, said the city faces significant challenges: “Ensuring compliance of lockdown restrictions and social distancing in dense and congested localities continues to remain a big challenge. The death rate has come down and recovery rate has increased significantly but until and unless social distancing is ensured in such localities it’s difficult to say how much time it will take to control the situation.”
So does Bhopal, according to the city’s collector Tarun Kumar Pithode. It’s far too crowded. “Social distancing was practically not possible in such areas like Zinci, Jehangirabad, Aishbagh, Talaiya, Mangalwara etc where we find a corona cloud, a term we have given not because of any spread in atmosphere but dense population. That’s why we have started taking people out of these localities. We have taken 2000 people out of Jehangirabad alone. This strategy, coupled with strict containment zone plan and legal provisions, have helped us and the number of positive cases is decreasing significantly,” he added.