India Coronavirus Dispatch: Experts worried as Bihar poll campaigns start

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Elections amid Corona: The Bihar election campaigns are underway amidst the pandemic. While leaders maintain that there is no panic on the ground in Bihar, experts point towards some worrying signs. The state’s tests per million is still quite low, with the CM Nitish Kumar saying they aim to achieve 20,000 daily RT-PCR tests soon. This shows that the state is yet to catch up with others like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Another point of concern is that while the state has ramped up testing since initial months, it’s mostly driven by RAT which result in high number of false negatives. While the state has a good recovery rate and among the lowest test positivity rates, experts say that given its poor health infrastructure and socio-economic conditions it cannot afford to let the guard down against the pandemic. Secondly, the polls are scheduled for November which marks the beginning of winter and also the flu season in the state. Read more here

Malnourishment in children: At least 15 per cent of the 149,000 children aged up to six years screened by the Women and Child Development department in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar have been found to be malnourished. Further, it found that 7.9 per cent of the children in the same age group in Melghat and 2.3 per cent in Palghar were malnourished. All three of these districts are tribal-dominated. The increased numbers of malnourishment among children is a direct fallout of the coronavirus-induced lockdowns which disrupted nutrition programmes, say officials. The increase in malnourishment numbers have been noticed since March when the pandemic hit. The findings coincide with a larger inquiry into ration-procurement procedures amid the lockdown. Further, it has come to light that ration supply to remote parts of some of these districts were delayed by up to two months owing to the pandemic. Read more here

Misleading death toll: A hospital in Assam’s Silchar did not record the death of a patient who was found Covid-positive posthumously as a coronavirus death, much to the bafflement of the deceased’s family. The panel of doctors ruled that the virus was an ‘incidental’ factor even though he had been admitted after experiencing breathlessness and fever. “We are undercounting deaths by an unknown factor,” says a retired virologist. Even pre-pandemic mortality data in India is patchy, say experts. The Health Ministry’s guidelines directs states to record even ‘suspected’ cases but these guidelines are advisory and many states don’t comply. Many states, like Assam, have panels that differentiate deaths as being caused by the virus from those caused by ‘underlying causes’. Read more here

Maharashtra’s 100% attendance norm: 16 people at Maharashtra’s secretariat building, Mantralaya, have succumbed to Covid-19 so far. Government officials have now threatened to stop working if the condition requiring 100 per cent attendance of class A and class B officials is not revoked. Two different govt official associations have written to the CM, blaming the lack of social distancing norms and violation of precautionary measures for the surge in cases. The 100 per cent attendance norm is part of the state’s revised guidelines in force since September 1. The number of visitors to the offices has also risen sharply, allege officials. The associations have also raised the issue of inadequate transportation facilities for the officials who have to travel long distances to reach their workplace. Protest meetings are now being planned across the state. Read more here

Dengue checks go down: Delhi has made progress in its fight against Dengue over the years. However, the pandemic might have disrupted this as well. This complicates the public health situation further as the city has also been reporting Dengue and Covid co-infections. This year, owing to the pandemic, the national capital saw fewer house visits to check the breeding of mosquitoes. House visits have dropped b over 10 million compared to the year-ago period. Prosecutions against those who violate Dengue safety norms have also fallen from 10,321 last year to 3,359 in this one. Most of the staff from civic bodies and the state health department — crucial for the anti-Dengue programme — has been diverted to fight against the pandemic. This is a cause for concern since the symptoms of Covid and Dengue overlap. Read more here

Delhi labs opt for RT-PCR: The ICMR has allowed CBNAAT and TrueNAT tests for detecting Covid-19, owing to their easy availability. However, Delhi’s labs continue to opt for RT-PCR over pricing and capacity issues. Among 45 private labs in the national capital that were survey, 7 are exclusively using TrueNAT tests, 6 are conducting only CBNAAT tests and the remaining are primarily RT-PCR labs. The ones that are conducting RT-PCR test also have access to the other two types but resort to the former since CBNAAT and TrueNAT are ‘far too expensive’ despite yielding results much faster. Secondly, the two tests can run up to 25 samples at a time while RT-PCR has capacity for 90. This choice comes despite ICMR’s push for greater diversity in test types. Running these tests is not profitable for the labs as much of the technology is imported and hence expensive. Read more here

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