By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 12 Sep: Uttarakhand Government is rightly wary of the Novel Corona pandemic spread in the state, but the questions remain over the effectiveness of the measures being adopted by the government towards curbing the spread of the pandemic as well as towards dealing with the disease! Vide an order issued yesterday, the state government restricted the entry of the people to the state by making it mandatory for all inbound passengers to get tested and produce a negative Covid-19 test report. Only some categories of people are exempted from this and they include the MLAs, MPs, the state ministers, union ministers, judges and bureaucrats as well senior government officials on official tours.
However, what has been ignored by the government is the fact that the pandemic is now spreading locally! The authorities still do not seem reconciled to accept local transmission of the pandemic.
Some facts and figures will surely indicate the ground situation of the pandemic in the state. While the number of cases is rising rapidly and now for past one week close to one thousand or even more cases are being detected every day. However, even as the number of cases is rising, the testing is not keeping up with the rising number of cases. With almost one thousand positive test reports coming out every day, the daily testing remains less than 10,000. For example on Friday, the total number of tests conducted in the state was 8861. This means that the incidence of positive cases as compared to the daily testing has gone beyond 10 percent. If we take into account the month of September so far, the incidence of positive cases as compared to the daily testing is more than 8.2 percent, which is higher than the first six months of the pandemic. In August, it was less than 6 percent!
Now let us take into account the data of Dehradun, the infection rate (positive cases as compared to the total number of tests conducted) for the first ten days is 16.70 percent! This implies that for every hundred people getting tested for Corona infection, more than 16 are turning out to be positive. In Haridwar the infection rate for the first ten days of September is 9.34 percent, while in Nainital district it is more than 13 percent. In Udham Singh Nagar it is 9.23 percent. These are the most affected districts in the state. These figures are clear indication of the fact that the pandemic is spreading locally and all the measures to restrict entry of people into the state will hardly be effective towards curbing the spread, but on the other hand will certainly have a highly negative impact on the economy of the state!
With the total number of Covid-19 cases already touching 30,000, Uttarakhand is swiftly moving towards a highly undesirable situation where we may soon touch the figure of 50,000 infections. Are we prepared to deal with this? Already the medical facilities are crumbling in the state and the big question is how can the state handle still higher and higher number of cases. This correspondent is aware of the fact that it is not easy to get a bed in any of the Covid designated hospital in Dehradun and in some other districts. The situation is not much better in respect of the hills which have comparatively much lower number of cases but are riddled with lack of medical facilities even for other patients. A large number of Covid-19 patients are therefore choosing to stay at home in case they are not suffering from any serious symptoms such as high fever, respiratory problems. Given the circumstances, the government too has allowed home treatment of Covid patients. However, with the situation worsening by the day, there is an urgent need to augment medical facilities to tackle the problem. There is immediate need to create more beds. For this, the government should consider taking over some hotels and other boarding facilities on a temporary basis and converting them to Covid hospitals. Currently some private hospitals have been permitted to treat Covid patients but they continue to be beyond the financial reach of the common people even though some fee restrictions have been placed on them.
Another measure required is higher testing not just of those entering the state but of the locals too and better tracing of the contacts of those who have already tested positive. This is currently not being done. Secondly, strict action is required against the people found violating social distancing norms or not wearing masks or wearing them improperly! In the markets, crowds are being seen everyday not complying with the norms related to social distancing or wearing masks. People must be fully made aware of the precautions they need to take on mandatory basis in order to avoid catching the infection!