One-third of India lives in red zones, Tamil Nadu leads the list
On Wednesday, the Union health ministry declared 170 districts in 20 states and five Union Territories (UTs) as hot spots – areas where the numbers of Covid-19 infections are high.
The 170 districts identified as coronavirus disease (Covid-19) hot spots across the country are home to about 37% of India’s population, with Tamil Nadu accounting for the most “red zones” – 22 of its 37 districts – among the states, according to the government’s data.
On Wednesday, the Union health ministry declared 170 districts in 20 states and five Union Territories (UTs) as hot spots – areas where the numbers of Covid-19 infections are high. The Centre told the states that there was no hot spot district in 11 states and UTs..
The Covid-19 hot spots account for about 23% of the 730-odd districts in India and are spread across 29% of the geographical area of the country, an analysis based on Census 2011 data showed.
Going by official data, nearly 453 million of India’s 1.21 billion citizens live in the hot spots, where life has come to a standstill, with authorities imposing stringent curbs and allowing inward and outward movement for essential personnel alone.
Ten of Delhi’s 11 districts and 14 of Maharashtra’s 36 districts feature in the list sent to the district authorities by Union health secretary Preeti Sudan. While 87% (or about 14.5 million people) of Delhi’s population reside in its hot spot districts, the corresponding number for Maharashtra stands at 60% (or about 66.9 million).
Both districts in Mumbai (Mumbai and Mumbai Suburban) and the neighbouring Thane district have been classified as hot spots. Over 20 million people live in these three districts.
The conditional relaxations India has announced with a sharp focus on the rural sector and daily wage labourers to kick-start sections of the economy during the lockdown will not be applicable to these hot spot districts.
Among all states – other than Chandigarh, whose only district is a hot spot – Andhra Pradesh has the highest share of population living in such districts – nearly 90% (or about 44.3 million). The 11 hot spot districts in Andhra Pradesh (out of total 13) comprise 92% of the state’s geographical area.
Apart from Tamil Nadu, other states that feature in the list of top five states in terms of the number of hot spot districts are Maharashtra (14 of its total 36), Uttar Pradesh (13 of 75), Rajasthan (12 of 33) and Andhra Pradesh (11 of 13).
Overall, there are 10 states and UTs where a majority of the population lives in hot spot districts. These are Chandigarh (100%), Andhra Pradesh (90%), Delhi (87%), Tamil Nadu (80%), Telangana (66%), Andaman and Nicobar (63%), Maharashtra (60%), Himachal Pradesh (53%), Jammu and Kashmir (53%) and Ladakh (51%).
In Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam and Madhya Pradesh, less than 20% of the population live in hot spot districts.
On the other hand, there is no hot spot district in eight states (Goa and all states of northeast India, other than Assam) and three Union Territories (Puducherry, Lakshadweep, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu).
The health ministry letter says containment measures in the hot spot districts will be considered over and these areas will become green zones (free from Covid-19) if they do not report any case for 28 days since the last negative result. A review of the hot spot list will be held every Monday. That means the next assessment will take place on April 20, the day the relaxations come to place.
The government defines hot spot districts as “high caseload districts” where the number of cases doubles in four days or less. The Centre has further segregated the 170 hot spots into two parts – those with large outbreaks (123) and those with clusters (47). In addition to the 170 red zones, India has 207 non-hot spot districts with clusters of cases
According to the government’s plan, a hot spot will be split into zones: a quarantine or containment zone (broadly, the epicentre of an infection and an area around it) and a buffer zone (an area around the containment zone). Guidelines for red zones are stricter than those governing areas outside them during the lockdown.
Subhash Salunkhe, a public health expert in Maharashtra, says the measures taken by the government for hot spots areas are an important intervention to contain the coronavirus spread.
“The whole idea is to contain the spread and that’s how measures are planned…If not today, people will be able to see the results in the coming days wherever they (the government’s guidelines) are followed effectively,” Salunke, the head of a state government panel for the prevention of communicable diseases, says.
(with inputs from HTC in Mumbai)