The Indian government has recently published data informing that the last consecutive seven days have shown a decrease in the new number of infections among citizens nationally. But importantly, in few states, the recent festive season has increased the number of per day coronavirus cases in the last one month. Kerala is now the highest infected state followed by Delhi and West Bengal. Celebrating the festival Onam in Kerala by violating social distancing norms has increased the number of positive cases in the state. In West Bengal, Durga Puja has also pushed the numbers higher. Even after the High Court’s order to not create congestion in the pandals, people were seen to ignore the rules in certain areas. Most of the safety and distancing norms were compromised and that exposed more people to the virus.
The actual impact of Onam was seen after more than four weeks. Immediately after the festival, Kerala’s per day positive cases were around 3400 with approximately 46,000 tests being performed each day. Now this has cumulated to 7745 per day cases as on November 9. Significantly, in WB, active positive cases on November 9 was 3907, which is higher than Kerala’s figures. The suburban local trains also started to run from November 11 along with the metro-rail that was started even before the Durga Puja. So, concerned healthcare experts are anxious about WB’s situation.
Dr. Subhrojyoti Bhowmick, Patient Safety Expert and Clinical Director, Academics and Research, Peerless Hospital (Kolkata), told BE, “During the festive season, people stepped out and social distancing norms were highly compromised. We are still observing that the number of cases is increasing. Hopefully, the spike that West Bengal had experienced after Mahalaya, will not be repeated. But it is still early to declare that the present situation is safe in the state. Compared to Kerala, after Onam, West Bengal did not show a massive increase. But we will have to wait for a couple of weeks more to see the actual level of infection and how the trigger happens. Additionally, Diwali, and Kali Puja are yet to come and that is worrying us.”
Another major fear is people who might have been infected may not have all been tested and scrutinised. Along with asymptomatic patients, many symptomatic patients are also not going for accurate and regular testing. So, this can also be a reason that the number of infected people is officially being shown to be lesser than the reality in WB. The death rates have also decreased because of early detection of co-morbidity in coronavirus positive patients and now they are getting prompt and fast treatment. Hence, a boost in appropriate testing (need of RT-PCR testing if rapid antigen test result is negative) with correct supportive medicines is the need of the hour.
Private initiative to enhance testing methods
In West Bengal, Apollo Hospitals has started mobile vans which are collecting patients’ samples from their locality. Suraksha Diagnostics have also started a similar initiative of sample collection from home. Peerless Hospital have introduced and installed new machine like Labgun kit which has a 36 minutes run time in Biorad RT-PCR instrument resulting in reducing RT-PCR Covid testing time to nearly half of what was required. So, a larger number of samples can be tested within the same duration now.
Government is vigilant
The state government has increased coronavirus beds in hospitals and quarantine centres. Closed hospital buildings have been put to use. The burnt AMRI building in Dhakuria, Kolkata is an example. The state has also increased its testing numbers to around 45,000 per day.
Speaking on the governmental actions to manage the pandemic situation, Dr. Bhowmick added, “A large number of patients cannot be hospitalised for bed constraints. Keeping them in mind, the Department of Health and Family Welfare, WB has started training programmes for physicians - so that they can treat the home quarantined patients. The government is also effectively up-scaling the existing telemedicine facilities.” Significantly, the total number of home quarantined people was 96,499 on November 9, according to West Bengal state government data, proving people have started to believe that they can be treated from their homes. So, trying to improve safe home and tele-counselling facilities by the government is appreciated.