Representational image. | Image Courtesy: Scroll.in
With the addition of 3,493 COVID-19 cases on Friday, June 12, the state of Maharashtra crossed the one lakh mark. The total number of cases of those affected by the novel coronavirus in the state, are 1,01,141, out of which 47,796 patients have recovered so far. A total of 3,717 patients have succumbed to the virus so far, and the fatality rate is 3.7%. Maharashtra currently has the highest number of COVID-19 patients in the country, and is far ahead of the number of patients in Tamil Nadu, the state which has the second-highest number with 40,698 cases.
The first patient in the state was found on March 9, in Pune. The next day, two patients were found in Mumbai. All of them had travelled to Dubai as tourists. The state crossed the one thousand mark on April 7; there were 10,000 patients on April 28. By May 9, the number had doubled, and there were 65,168 COVID-19 patients in Maharashtra by May 30. Since then, the number has increased by almost 35,000.
The total number of deaths in Maharashtra stood at 3,717 till June 12. Out of those patients, 2,044 died in Mumbai. The state's fatality rate, at 3.7%, is better as compared to other states. Maharashtra has conducted 6,24,977 tests as of now, and the rate of positive cases is at 16.18%. The capital city of Mumbai has conducted 2,47,696 out of those, with the rate of positive cases at 22.28%.
As of now, 47,796 patients have cured and discharged; 25,152 such cases are from Mumbai. The recovery rate from COVID-19 in Maharashtra is at 47.25% and Mumbai has a recovery rate of 45.35%. In the last week, the state has recorded 20,912 cases and 868 deaths, at a daily average of 124 deaths and 2,987 cases. The numbers are worrying.
A serious concern about the numbers is that the state has not conducted tests according to its capacity. Maharashtra has 97 labs at the moment, a number much higher as compared to any other state. Out of those, 57 are government-run labs and the remaining 40 are private. The state's daily testing capacity stands at 25,000. However, the highest number of tests conducted in the state were 15,998, on June 10.
Medical experts and the World Health Organisation has said that aggressive testing is the only way forward, and the fact that the state is conducting a lesser number of tests than its capacity, has resulted in scrutiny. Medical Education Minister, Amit Deshmukh, has said that it is part of government strategy.
“We need to understand that random testing could give us a false picture of a fall in the rate of those testing positive for COVID-19. There could be false negatives; this needs to be avoided. As of this moment, we are seeing 19 positive samples out of 100, in private labs, and the corresponding number in government labs is 19.5%. This (strategy) has been decided by senior epidemiologists in consultation with the state government,” said Deshmukh, adding that the strategy would help in more focused testing and help in finding patients better.
Mumbai has posed a serious challenge for the state government. With the monsoon set to arrive in the city this weekend, the situation is expected to become more complicated. There is a serious concern among officials that Mumbai may end up with one lakh patients by the end of June. The Commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, I.S. Chahal, said on Friday that the administration is working on a plan to handle that many patients by June 30. "I will not say that the number of patients in the city will be one lakh by the end of June. However, we are increasing capacity to handle one lakh patients by the end of the month. According to our estimates, there could be 60,000 COVID-19 patients in that scenario, and we will have to treat them," said Chahal.
The lockdown has been partially lifted in Maharashtra, and Mumbai has been returning to normalcy as well. There was a rumour doing the rounds on Friday that the increase in the number of patients may force the state government to bring in a lockdown again. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray immediately clarified that there was no such proposal on the table and that the state would not go in for another lockdown. He, however, appealed to people to take care of themselves and follow guidelines strictly.
The end of the lockdown and the resumption of the bus service, especially, has given rise to fears that it could result in the spread of the novel coronavirus further. Officials in the state's health department said that the number could rise exponentially between June 25 and July 5. "This is our assumption. The state's ratio of positive patients, who are found on a daily basis, could go up then," a senior official told NewsClick.