Odisha's tryst with the COVID-19 pandemic saga is best illustrated by 52-year-old Karunakar Raika, the additional district magistrate of Gajapatiwho succumbed to COVID-19 on July 21. His is a a story that shows the impact that the returning migrants have had in various states. Raika started feeling ill, tested negative with the TrueNat test, was put in quarantine, and then his condition deteriorated. He died before the the RT-PCCR test result came back positive. Statewide, there are 186 other patients who have died, as of August 1.
In the initial months Odisha saw a very gradual increase in the number of cases, with the first case reported on March 15; by the end of June it had barely reached 7,000 cases. But by mid-July it had reached more than 15,000 and July ended with more than 33,000 confirmed cases. The percentage of the number of tests to cases per week stood at about 3 per cent in early June and by the end of July stands at almost 12 per cent.
The government was quick off its feet in the initial days, with a toll-free number, a website, an announcement that people would get Rs.15,000 if they stayed in quarantine centres on their return from outside, and so on.
On May 2, Ganjam, the native district of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, had just 2 confirmed cases to Khordha’s 47, but by May 10 it had 125 cases and Khordha 50. A month later on June 10, the former had 649 and the latter 290.
On August 1, Ganjam with 31 per cent of cases, has 10,672 cases and Khordha, the district to which state capital Bhubaneshwar belongs to, has 13 per cent of the confirmed cases with 4,485 cases.
The burgeoning number of migrants, mostly to Ganjam, made Odisha’s best laid out plans go awry. Judging by the government's own dashboard, with just one Covid hospital in the whole of Ganjam district, which has 200 beds and 20 ICU beds, the situation has deteriorated rapidly.
Ganjam went past the 5,000-mark on July 18 and it took another one week to reach the 8,000-mark on July 25. The district’s caseload reached 9,000 on July 27. Reports put the number of migrants who have returned to Ganjam at about 3 lakh.
Although it is the only district that figures in the top-30 districts with most confirmed cases, with about 10,672 confirmed on August 1, Khordha too has been a district that is seeing a sharp increase in the number of cases. Cuttack, Gajapati, Sundergarh, Jajpur, and Balasore are other districts with rapidly increasing cases too.
The death toll too has been the most in Ganjam district with as many as 105 patients dying, Khordha has had 33 deaths, while Cuttack has had 14 casualties, and Gajapati 11.
With one of the poorest records for testing all-India and a massive influx of returning migrants, Odisha is staring at August with the possibility of the caseload growing exponentially and the health infrastructure remaining grossly inadequate.