Indicating a deepening health crisis in the South, Telugu-speaking states are reporting a rapid surge in Covid-19 cases with signs of local transmission in rural areas. Andhra Pradesh is staring at its overwhelmed hospitals amid an extraordinary daily increase in coronavirus cases in the last one week, while in Telangana, with no clear containment policy from the authorities, people are self-imposing voluntary lockdowns.
For the last two days, Andhra Pradesh has been reporting over 4,000 daily new cases taking its overall tally to 53,724 and the death toll to 696, as on July 20. The whooping surge in numbers indicates that the state is still far from arresting the spread of the virus.
While the new cases are being reported from all 13 districts, as on Monday. East Godavari district alone reported 1,086 cases, followed by Guntur with 596 cases and Kurnool with 559 cases. All the remaining districts reported over 100 cases except Vizianagaram with 56 cases.
The state has ramped up the testing since early April and has tested 13.94 lakh samples so far, taking the tests per million ratio to 25,264.
With over 40,000 cases being reported Since July 1, authorities are attributing the surge to opening up of borders and resumption of transportation during the unlock phases. However, observers point out that lack of public health awareness among authorities with Covid-19 containment responsibilities is contributing to the large scale spread of the virus.
“Services of senior physicians in the public health sector are underutilised and the government has been relying on the newly recruited village secretariat officers for the containment efforts who seem to lack public health awareness,” said a senior physician in the government sector, who wants to remain anonymous. He added that the authorities also have given up on contact tracing.
On July 20, Telangana reported 1,198 positive cases and seven deaths taking the total confirmed positive cases to 45,076 and death toll to 422. The state’s response to the virus has come under much criticism with its lowest testing rate, inadequate data, and overcrowded public health facilities.
So far, the state has tested 2.76 lakh samples, one of the lowest among large states and five times less than that of Andhra Pradesh. The state’s cumulative sample positivity rate stood at 16.8%, one of the highest in the country.
With the massive surge in the positive cases post lockdown, self-imposition of village-level and mandal-level lockdowns has become people’s own containment strategy.
As per the officials, there are 471 ventilators available in 61 government Covid-19 hospitals. In government facilities, there are 3,537 beds with oxygen supply and 1,616 ICU beds.
High Court Slams Telangana Covid-19 response
On Monday, Telangana High Court summoned several top officials including the chief secretary and public health director to be present in the court on July 28 while hearing a set of petitions on concerns on the state’s handling of the virus spread.
Expressing concern over the spread of the virus, a bench headed by Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy questioned why the state government has been ignoring the directions of the court. The bench stated: “The same directions are being issued by the union health ministry and the ICMR. But the state government is blissfully ignoring them. It wants the people to grope in the dark and live in the bliss of ignorance.”