COVID-19 UPDATE

Rajasthan: Relative ease

Print edition : July 31, 2020

Temperature scanning before Rajasthan Board 10th standard exams, in Bikaner on June 30. Photo: PTI

An awareness rally on COVID-19 by the Rajasthan Police in Jaipur on July 2. Photo: Rohit Jain Paras

Rajasthan fares much better in comparison with its neighbouring States in containing the spread of COVID and in keeping the mortality rate low.

Rajasthan has been somewhat successful in keeping the number of COVID–19 cases and mortality rate low compared with some of its neighbouring States in northern India. From among the top States accounting for the most number of cases in the country, it is now in the ninth position, with West Bengal, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh surpassing it. In terms of mortality, Rajasthan is eighth among the States and have fewer deaths than in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. However, the recent spurt in the number of cases has been a cause for worry. On July 5, the State recorded the highest single-day spike of 632 COVID-19 cases. At least a hundred persons were found infected in a jail in Pratapgarh.

In March-April, Rajasthan was the second State in northern India, after Delhi, to record a relatively high number of infections on a daily basis. This situation was particularly attributed to the spread of infection from a religious congregation in Delhi. Had its attendees been properly screened, tested and contact-traced, the incidence and spread of cases could have been controlled.

Ten districts, namely Jaipur, Jodhpur, Alwar, Bikaner, Bharatpur, Barmer, Pali, Dholpur, Sirohi and Jalore, accounted for 68.68 per cent of the total caseload in the State. Of these, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Alwar, Bikaner and Bharatpur accounted for 47.9 per cent of the total caseload. Alwar, which reported fewer infections in March and April, now stands third, after Jaipur and Jodhpur, in the total number of COVID cases.

The total number of COVID cases in the State doubled in a month, from 10,084 on June 5 to 20,164 as of July 6. Until June 21, the daily count of confirmed cases each day ranged between 220 and 350, which crossed 350 after June 29. And on July 6, the daily count went up by 632 cases over the previous day.

The week beginning June 29 saw a spurt in the number of cases. This could be because of the gradual “unlocking” of the State and the consequent relaxation of restrictions on people’s movement. The last weeks of April and much of May accounted for a large number of cases, mostly from migrant labourers coming in from neighbouring States. Significant numbers were reported from districts bordering Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. However, the government has managed to prevent the spread to rural areas.

Low mortality

The mortality rate in the State has remained at a constant of 2.2 per cent and the growth rate of confirmed cases around 2 per cent. The number of confirmed cases per million people (270.79) was almost half that of the national average (541.13). The levels of testing were also high compared with some of the States in its neighbourhood. From 4.8 lakh individuals on June 5, the number of tests doubled to 9 lakh within a month. The average number of tests conducted a day was close to 11,000 per million of the population compared with 4,960 in Madhya Pradesh and 6,066 in Gujarat. In the same period, Madhya Pradesh tested 4 lakh persons (up from 1.95 lakh on June 5) and Gujarat did 4.12 tests (up from 2 lakh on June 5). Again, when Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 22 crore plus, tested only 3,841 persons per million of its population, Rajasthan, whose population is only one-third of that (about seven crore) did 11,915 tests.

As of July 6, as many as 466 persons had died of COVID-19 in Rajasthan. In comparison, there were 1,978 deaths in Gujarat, 833 in Uttar Pradesh and 626 in Madhya Pradesh. “Testing has increased and the number of cases are rising,” said Anil Goswami, president of the Rajasthan Nagrik Manch, a broad front of civil society organisations in the State.

The suicide of a man undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at a government hospital in the State in the last week of June drew attention to the mental health issues of COVID patients. There was still a lot of fear and stigma around the disease, Goswami said.

Non-COVID cases

Patient footfall at the SMS Hospital, the largest government hospital in Jaipur, which had been converted to a COVID-19 hospital, had still not picked up to the level it was before the outbreak even after it was restored to being a regular hospital. From 18,219 inpatients in January, the number fell to 18,148 in February and 12,643 in March. It came to an all-time low in April with 4,305 admissions, but by June it had reached 7,840, yet less than half the number of admissions in January.

Similarly, the number of surgeries also declined to almost one-third in the period (5,507 cases in June from 13,110 in January). The number of surgeries elsewhere too had reduced in the same period as all government hospitals were converted to COVID facilities.

One of the distinctive features of the COVID-19 trajectory in Rajasthan has been the low rate of mortality and the relatively higher rates of testing. The emergence of new infections, however, poses a problem. For this reason educational institutions will continue to remain closed until the end of July.

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