COVID-19 Update: Odisha

Cyclone in COVID times

Print edition : June 18, 2021

Residents of the Bahanaga panchayat of Balasore district wait for food at a cyclone shelter following the landfall made by the very severe cyclonic storm Yaas on May 26. The Odisha government made it a point to test evacuees for COVID at cyclone shelters and also any relief personnel who might show symptoms. Photo: BISWARANJAN ROUT

Odisha continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with its focus on villages, where infections were found to be spreading.

Odisha continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic with its focus on villages, where infections were found to be spreading. It has given additional powers to the sarpanches of all gram panchayats to ensure testing, tracking and treatment of those getting infected by coronavirus.

The administration, however, finds itself in a tight spot in the wake of the very severe cyclonic storm Yaas that hit the coast in north Odisha on May 26. Although the cyclone turned out to have a lower speed than predicted, more than 100 villages in the coastal areas of Balasore and Bhadrak districts were inundated following heavy rain and tidal surge. Three people died.

The State had evacuated around 6.5 lakh people to cyclone shelters ahead of the storm. COVID-19 testing and vaccination was suspended in Balasore, Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj districts from May 25 to 27 in view of the storm. Partial suspension of testing and vaccination was ordered in a few other places, including the capital city of Bhubaneswar, as heavy rain lashed the region days ahead of the storm. The testing and vaccination process resumed when the situation improved after the cyclone. This was the second time that Odisha had to cope with a severe cyclonic storm while fighting COVID-19. Cyclone Amphan had hit the State in May last year.

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While carrying out relief and restoration work in the affected region, the government started screening the evacuated families for COVID-19 symptoms in view of possible violation of COVID-19 protocol during the evacuation drive and in cyclone shelters. Those engaged in restoration work were also asked to monitor their own health parameters. The instruction was that anyone showing symptoms should be immediately isolated and tested. Screening of the evacuated population who returned to their homes was carried out by the Accredited Social Health Activists and anganwadi workers as part of a three-month house-to-house survey that was launched on May 24 to detect COVID-19 symptoms and co-morbid conditions in people across the State.

The Gaon Kalyan Samitis supported the house-to-house survey at the village level. Apart from their annual grant of Rs.10,000, the Samitis got financial assistance of Rs.10,000 each from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for undertaking activities relating to containing the spread of the pandemic in the second wave.

On the other hand, the Odisha State Medical Corporation Ltd. has got the green signal to supply materials and equipment for better management of the COVID-19 situation in 11 districts in the State’s western region. This has been done in coordination with the Western Odisha Development Council and the State Health Department.

Meanwhile, over 10,000 cases have been detected on most days since May 1. The number of active cases remained over one lakh through the second half of May. The number of deaths during the second wave also increased by the day. The surge in cases in many rural areas following the return of migrant workers from other States showed no decline. The test positivity rate, too, did not show any satisfactory decline, and 25 of the 30 districts had more than 1,000 active cases in the last week of May.

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While strengthening health infrastructure by adding intensive care units (ICUs) and oxygen beds, the State government has also asked all government and private hospitals to create a designated paediatric COVID-19 wing within the existing facilities. The number of children who tested positive until May 27 stood at 36,961; the total number of people who tested positive was 7,32,739.

The State continues to remain under lockdown since May 5. After an initial lockdown of two weeks, the restrictions were extended by another two weeks until June 1. The lockdown is likely to remain in force until new cases show a decline in the districts with high caseloads.