India Coronavirus Dispatch: MP races against time to plug oxygen supply gap

The daily detection of new confirmed Covid-19 cases dropped below 80,000 on Friday, only the fourth such instance in the last month. But the drops earlier were directly the result of low testing on weekends.
Oxygen supply race: On September 17, MP government directed 11 Air Suppressing Unit (ASU) owners to increase capacity and supply 90 per cent of their oxygen to hospitals. The state has seen a huge surge in demand for medical grade oxygen, from 50 tonnes in February to 130 tonnes in September. The state has no in-house production of liquified oxygen and much of its medical and industrial needs are met from neighbouring states, primarily Maharashtra. MP’s problems were compounded when Maharashtra decided to not supply oxygen outside the state after witnessing a surge in cases. Meanwhile, industrial units say the order diverting 90 per cent oxygen for medical use has led to severe black marketing.

Worrying signs in Kerala: Over the past few weeks, Kerala has seen record increases in its Covid tally. Active cases have increased by over 44,100 in the last two weeks. IMA officials have even pointed out that the healthcare system in Kerala is beginning to feel the strain of growing cases and have requested the state to declare a ‘health emergency’. The state’s recovery rate is at 65.39 per cent compared to the national rate of 83.01 per cent. More worryingly, the state’s test positivity rate as of September 30 was a whopping 13.86 per cent. There was also much confusion over the government’s orders imposing section 144 across the state. Much of the existing relaxations for funerals and weddings will continue despite the order.

11% of doctors dying are from Bengal: In a worrying statistic for the medical fraternity, it has been found that as many as 51 of the 454 doctors in the country who have died so far due to Covid-19 are from West Bengal. This high proportion of deaths among doctors is despite the fact that the state has not seen any huge spike in confirmed cases compared to other states in the country. The high fatality rate among doctors in the state could be caused by the fact that Bengal is densely populated and therefore has a higher viral load, according to one expert. Another expert says that Bengal might be the only state reporting every doctor’s death while the other states could be underreporting. At leat two of the doctors who have died were in their 30s, a relatively younger age to succumb to the virus.

In Numbers

Maharashtra’s decline: The daily detection of new confirmed Covid-19 cases dropped below 80,000 on Friday, only the fourth such instance in the last month. But the drops earlier were directly the result of low testing on weekends. Friday’s drop, however, is a result of declining numbers from Maharashtra. The state had been reporting over 22,000 cases daily a couple of weeks ago. This has come down to the range of 15,000-18,000 cases a day now. This drop is reflecting in the national figures. Throughout the pandemic, Maharashtra’s stats had a huge influence on the national numbers. At one point in time, the state accounted for as much as 40 per cent of India’s entire caseload. This figure, too, has declined to 22 per cent now. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the case trajectories for India and Maharashtra resemble each other very closely.

Nearly 40% deaths from Maharashtra: The country hit the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus-induced deaths on Friday. India now accounts for 10 per cent of the global Covid-19 deaths. Maharashtra accounts for over a third of India’s deaths, having recorded almost 38,000 fatalities so far. The state also has a high case fatality ratio (CFR) — the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed cases — at 2.67 per cent. Other high caseload states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have managed to keep their CFR relatively low. Even Andhra Pradesh has done better in terms of deaths. Experts, however, believe that India has been under-reporting deaths although the extent of undercounting has not been estimated.

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