The death toll due to the Assam floods is 108 and the total deaths due to COVID-19, 94 on July 30. Assam and Bihar are two states whose resources are already stretched, that have had to fight a pandemic along with a natural disaster battering them. Of the 26.66 million population, the floods have affected as many as 1.2 million people, according to a report in the Assam Tribune. July 30 saw the highest single-day spike in Assam.
The floods have affected 22 of the 33 districts, which include Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Biswanath, Darrang, Baksa, Barpeta, Chirang, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, South Salmara, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Morigaon, Nagaon, Golaghat, Jorhat, Majuli, Sivasagar and Dibrugarh. Goalpara is the most badly affected, with more than “4.19 lakh people marooned”. The flood could have a serious impact on the caseload numbers in the coming weeks as people might throw the pandemic guidelines of social distancing and wearing of masks, to the wind.
The cases in Kamrup (Metro) was 283 cases, Nagaon 211, Kamrup (Rural) 210 and 132 in Sonitpur on Thursday, in some of the worst affected districts. The number of confirmed cases has seen a jump of about 13,000 in the past 10 days. In July the state has added as many as 30,000 cases. But the state government believes the situation is improving. Himanta Biswa Sarma, the state’s health minister said: “We will be following the guidelines specified by the State government at least till August 15. The situation is showing slight signs of improvement. We cannot lose the work done and achieved so far with our restrictions to check the spread of COVID.”
The government said that on Thursday, 4,267 Rapid Antigen Tests were done, apart from 1,126 RT-PCR tests. A total 193 cases were detected positive in the Rapid Antigen Tests. In Guwahati, authorities are conducting rapid testing at shops and commercial establishments. Nevertheless with just 8,79,071 tests to its credit, the state has to do a lot more tests. But it is doing better that West Bengal, which, with 8,74,397 tests, lags just behind Assam.
But a look at the cases per week versus the test ratio chart, shows a very uneven trajectory in the rise of the number of cases. A stretched government has reportedly urged recovered patients to help in donating blood for the untested, claiming that plasma therapy helps the not so ill patients recover. The government has said that “symptomatic patients who donate plasma four weeks after recovery will get preference in government jobs and housing.”
The one piece of good news coming out of the state though, is that the National Health Mission is trying to help those affected psychologically by the pandemic. According to the mission, “around 15 per cent COVID-19 positive patients are suffering from stress-related issues and 14 per cent have psychological issues connected to job loss due to the pandemic.” About 220 counsellors that includes psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatrist social workers have managed to reach more than 15,000 people in need of help.
With the floods showing signs of receding, Assam should ramp up testing and brace for the caseload to increase in the coming weeks.