The spread of the pandemic – editorials
India’s battle against the coronavirus disease pandemic has hit a difficult point. Three developments: the increase in cases in the Capital, the sustained increase in Maharashtra and the increase in cases in six migrant-receiving states, point to the challenge at hand. India’s largest cities, its most densely populated states and the rural interior of the north are simultaneously seeing the spread of the pandemic, and do not seem equipped to deal with it.
First, take the situation in the Capital. It has just over 31,000 cases, but as Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal described on Wednesday, the city can see 532,000 cases by the end of July, and will need 80,000 beds. He stated that since the city’s hospitals will also be open to outsiders, the bed requirement could be closer to 150,000. For context, the city has just over 9,000 beds. This means that Capital must guarantee a 15-fold jump in bed availability, which, in turn, will also require additional healthcare personnel, personal protective equipment, and oxygen and ventilator support. This increase occurs at a time when testing has been reduced, although this can be remedied. Two, on Tuesday, Maharashtra crossed 90,000 cases, with Mumbai having more than 50,000 cases. It was also the ninth day in a row when the state recorded more than 100 deaths in one day. While authorities expect the curve to begin flattening out in the state in late June, new groups are emerging. With Unlock 1.0 in effect, there is an even greater chance of the disease spreading.
And finally, as an analysis based on data in this newspaper showed, six states – Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal – have seen an increase in cases. They contributed 8% of the cases nationwide in the first week of May; This jumped to 16% between June 2 and 8. They accounted for 10% of deaths in the same period in June. All of these states have also been receiving migrant workers. They also have a relatively poor health infrastructure. A state the size of Uttar Pradesh has only 31 testing labs. The number of cases is still relatively low, compared to the rest of the country, but the pattern is clear. All this indicates that, while governments should monitor the revival of the economy, they should not let the focus dissipate from the challenge to health. There is no quick fix except to follow established scientific protocol: test, trace, isolate, treat. Then rinse and repeat.