Odisha breaches 1-lakh Covid-cases mark, hopes for decline by mid-September

Odisha officials are worried about the paucity of ICU beds in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
Odisha officials say the number of Covid-19 cases in the state have risen as per the predictive model employed by the government.(ANI Photo)
Odisha officials say the number of Covid-19 cases in the state have risen as per the predictive model employed by the government.(ANI Photo)
Updated on Aug 30, 2020 04:55 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar | ByDebabrata Mohanty | Edited by Abhinav Sahay

The Covid-19 tally in Odisha breached the 1-lakh mark on Sunday as the state added 3,000-odd more cases over the last 24 hours, taking the total count to 100,934. The number includes 70,714 recoveries and 535 people who have lost their lives because of the Covid-19 infection.

The 1 lakh caseload came on the back of massive rise in testing, most of which was rapid antigen testing that gave results within half an hour of the swab being tested. With its resources strained over RT-PCR tests and the results taking 6-8 hours, the government by end-July started doing rapid antigen tests that cleared much of its backlog. In August alone, the labs in Odisha tested over 1 million samples compared to 6.7 lakh tests done in the last 4 and half months.

In the last 9 days, the labs have tested around 62,000 samples on an average everyday with sample positivity rate dropping below 5.

Odisha’s additional chief secretary of health, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra said the number of positive cases in Odisha have risen as per the predictive model applied by the state government.

“As per the model, we were supposed to see around 1 lakh cases by the end of August with 3,000-odd cases every day. We are doing around 60,000 tests every day and seeing 3,000-odd positive cases with the positivity rate over the last 7 days remaining below 5. The mortality rate is less than 0.5 per cent, which is lower than the national average. The recovery rate is now 71 per cent, which is slightly lower than the national average. We would catch up soon,” said Mohapatra.

Renowned microbiologist Dr TM Mohapatra, a former advisor to ICMR, said Odisha’s numbers can start flattening once the recovery rates reach 75 per cent.

“The states which have reached recovery rates of more than 75 per cent would experience decline in number of cases. Odisha too would see a plateau in numbers soon,” said Dr Mohapatra.

However, public health officials in Odisha said they were not so sanguine about the numbers plateauing. “It’s a new virus and it has defied all scientific models so far due to its better infection rate compared to other viruses. The debate on any state reaching its peak infection is of no use. What we should focus on is limiting mortality, an area where Odisha has done better than other states,” said a senior official of the health department.

Ganjam district, which till mid-August was a Covid hotspot with sample positivity rate crossing 60 per cent on some days, has now started seeing a decline in the numbers due to increased testing and tracing of positive contacts. The district which reported 732 cases, its single day-high in July, is now reporting less than 200 cases a day. Though its cumulative Covid number 17,672 is the highest in Odisha, over 90 per cent of these patients have recovered, suggesting that it has turned the corner.

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In comparison, Odisha’s new Covid hotspots-- Khordha district including capital city of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack-- have reported over 24,000 cumulative cases between them.

Since last week, the two districts are reporting around 960 cases daily. Khordha’s recovery rate is now down to 61 per cent while in Cuttack it is about 41 per cent.

However, senior health officials said the rising numbers is not a major concern except the paucity of ICU beds in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.

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“About 55 per cent of the total active cases of 29,685 in the state are now in home isolation. As the recovery rates are rising, the pressure on health infrastructure is also decreasing. Hopefully, we will start seeing a decline in daily new cases by mid-September. But what remains a matter of concern is the discarding of masks and social distancing measures by the people as it may lead to re-infection and possible mortality. We can’t drop our guards so soon,” said additional chief secretary (health) Mohapatra.

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