India Coronavirus Dispatch: Country's size, diversity may be hindering peak

Bengaluru was the least-affected among the big cities in India for a long time but has now emerged to take the third spot after beating Mumbai
Will a peak never come? Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary of the Union health ministry, had on multiple occasions claimed that India’s Covid peak ‘will never come’. Six months into the pandemic, this baffling claim now seems prophetic. This would be a singularly unique situation as most other countries have seen peaks and plateaus. Some experts say that this happening simply because of India’s size and the fact that different regions of the country are at different stages of the pandemic while the national average remains an aggregation of what is happening across the country. Further, India’s lockdown did not help because it triggered a mass exodus of migrant workers desperately looking for food and money. Experts say localised lockdowns customised to the prevailing regional situation would have been more suitable. But experts also feel that a peak will eventually come, maybe sooner than we expect, but the drop in cases will be gradual as the speed of reduction will be lower than the rate of ascent. Read more here

Punjab’s oxygen demand spikes: The Punjab government has sought assistance from neighbouring states as it struggles to keep up with the demand for medical grade oxygen amid a surge in cases. In the last three weeks, the state has seen a doubling of both cases and deaths. The state’s fatality rate is the highest in the country. State officials say the demand two months ago was around 22 MT per day and has now gone up to around 90 MT. The government has also asked local suppliers to prioritise oxygen supply to the state’s government and private hospitals. The state’s local officials meanwhile have been asked to call a meeting with oxygen manufacturers to ask them to enhance oxygen production. The state has also issued temporary licenses to more firms for supplying and refilling oxygen plants. Experts meanwhile say the shortage of oxygen supply is a cause for concern as it’s required to treat severely ill patients. Read more here

Ventilator shortage in Karnataka: Over the last week, critically ill patients in Bengaluru are finding it difficult to avail ICU beds with ventilators under government quota. This is despite the BBMP website listing out availability of multiple ICU beds with ventilators. BBMP nodal officers and volunteers engaged with bed allotment, however, say that most hospitals they have contacted have said that the beds are unavailable. A local official confirmed that the situation was grim and that the website is yet to be updated to reflect the on-ground reality. Other officials pin the blame on private hospitals, who they say, are hoodwinking the BBMP. ICU admissions stood at 700 till August 10. Subsequently, these numbers saw a spike and currently 807 patients are being monitored in ICUs. Read more here

In Numbers

Mumbai’s new spike: On 29 July, the BMC had quipped that Mumbai was past the Covid crisis phase as key parameters showed the pandemic slowing down in the city. A month-and-a-half later, however, the parameters have slipped. The daily growth rate of cases in September so far has once again crossed 1 per cent with the city recording over 2,000 daily cases for the past few days. The doubling rate has also gone below 60 days from August’s 84 days. Compared to July, the number of active cases has also shot up from 20,000 to almost 30,000. However, the only bit of good news is that the death figures have gone down marginally. BMC officials have been attributing the new spike to ramping up of tests in the city. Secondly, they say, 85 per cent of the new cases detected are mild or asymptomatic. Some have said the 10-day Ganesh festival is the reason for the current spike. Read more here

Bengaluru beats Mumbai: Bengaluru was the least-affected among the big cities in India for a long time but has now emerged to take the third spot after beating Mumbai. It has over 170,000 people infected by the virus. By June-end, when Mumbai had nearly 80,000 cases, Bengaluru had just 4,500. The pandemic in the city, just like the Southern state, took off in a big way in July. Karnataka’s capital now accounts for nearly 40 per cent of the confirmed cases in the state. It also has 43,000 confirmed cases, the highest only after Pune. It has been reporting over 3,500 confirmed cases daily for the past few days. Only Delhi and Pune have been reporting more daily confirmed infections. Read more here


Pregnancy care: The columnists say that while managing the pandemic is the top priority, we should not lose sight of the special care that is need for pregnant mothers. This relates to issues of two kinds: medical management of pregnancy and newborn care. Studies have shown that the coronavirus can infect the placenta since it’s a highly vascular organ. A small percentage of babies even have acquired neonatal infection from the mother. Further, rare neurological problems have been noticed in newborns. It should be noted that in India, statistics show that 8-10 per cent of expecting mothers admitted for delivery were infected by the virus. The columnists say that ICMR should ensure medical teams are aware of the trans-placental transmission of the virus. Guidelines also need to be put into place for periodic follow-ups of newborns born to infected mothers. Read more here

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