India Coronavirus Dispatch: Death rate low in Assam due to under-counting

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Effect on education: On International Literacy Day, this story looks at the response of educational institutions in general and teachers in particular to the pandemic. While Covid-19 has been a major disruptor across sectors, education is one of its earliest and most-hit casualties. Migrant exodus, coupled with digital divide, upended the schooling of children across the country. A teacher in a low-income primary school in Delhi, for example, says only 60 per cent of students have returned since lockdown restrictions were lifted. Many shifted to cheaper government schools or went back to their villages. In some cases, students have had to constantly shift between cities as their parents were rendered jobless. In many cases, schools themselves have shut down and have not conducted even online classes. Some institutes are now redirecting funds to ensure students have access to basic technology like internet routers and laptops. Read more here

Assam’s low mortality rate: Officially, Assam has the lowest fatality rate in India at about 0.28 per cent. However, some cases cast a shadow on the state’s rosy numbers. For instance, the name of a Covid-positive patient who died was not included in the state’s death count. When questioned over this, officials said the man had died of myasthenia gravis, a chronic neuromuscular condition, and not of Covid-19. The state health minister had on July 11 announced the formation of a death audit board which he falsely claimed was in accordance to ICMR guidelines. Although other states have also set up audit boards, the one in Assam seems to have caused heavy undercounting and underreporting of Covid deaths. More worryingly, deaths of those who posthumously tested positive for the virus have not been included in the tally. Closer scrutiny shows 60 per cent of deaths of Covid-positive patients have not been counted by the state. Read more here

Dual role: The superintendent of police (SP) of Barpeta district in Assam, Robin Kumar, has been playing a dual role during the pandemic: that of a cop and a doctor. “Both physicians and police are over burdened and stressed during these trying times. So, I thought of just sharing their burden, and it is motivating for me,” he says. Kumar has been running a Covid care centre in the district for police personnel and their families. He also recently organised a special health camp for police personnel aged above 50. Kumar’s mark has achieved him praise from the Vice President. He’s further willing to extend medical services beyond the police fraternity in the state if the need arises. Read more here


Sanitation workers: A survey in June of sanitation workers across states has revealed that a large majority did not have access to basic protective gear during this period. Further, 93 per cent of Safai Karmacharis in the survey did not receive any special instructions on dealing with the virus. The same proportion of workers also said they received no instructions on health check-ups. According to reports, one senior sanitation supervisor died of Covid-19 in AIIMs, New Delhi. Only 30.7 per cent of respondents got masks, 22.4 per cent said they received gloves, 31.1 per cent claimed to have received soaps, and only 18.9 per cent got sanitisers. Others either did not get any of these at all or got them in insufficient qualities. Poor quality of protective equipment was also an issue. Read more here

Understanding Covid-19

One in four test positive in Maharashtra village: Until mid-August, there wasn’t a single confirmed Covid-19 case in Rajewadi, a village in Maharashtra. Now one in every four of its residents have tested positive. Local officials blame a local religious event for the sudden spread. Localised spurts like these in rural areas where safety measures are lacking and mass gatherings have made a return are now driving the recent rise in cases. Widespread testing was launched on August 17 in the village inhabited by 360 people, after a senior citizen tested positive. In a short span, 91 were confirmed to have the virus. The village has now been sealed off by the police. Locals now say most residents believed the pandemic was ‘only hype’. Read more here

How to store your mask: Now that face masks have become a part of our daily lives, it’s essential to learn how to live with them. Learning how to store them when not in use is therefore important. Masks should be kept in a designated place that is clean and dry. It should ideally not be stored near your clothing. Secondly, it’s important to segregate masks by user so that multiple masks are not kept together. Equally important is to ensure that used and clean masks should not be mixed. While on the go, a paper bag is ideal for storing the mask rather than keeping it directly inside a backpack along with other items. Handling masks only by their ear loops or ties and washing them frequently are other safety tips that should be adhered to. Read more here

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