Telangana records its highest number of active COVID-19 cases so far, restarts its vaccine programme after receiving a new consignment of vaccine doses from the Centre

Published : April 19, 2021 18:20 IST

A medical worker administering COVID-19 vaccine in Sangareddy in Sangareddy District on April 19. Photo: MOHAMMED ARIF

 

After a near-total halt in the administering of COVID-19 vaccines on April 18 thanks to a severe shortage, Telangana’s vaccination drive got off the ground this morning (April 19) after it received 2.7 lakh vaccine doses from the Centre. And by 4 p.m., more than 1.28 lakh people had already been administered with the vaccine.

The latest consignment of vaccines has arrived not a day too early. Data coming out of the State’s COVID-19 war room is hardly encouraging: the total number of active cases in the State—39,154 as of 4 p.m. on April 19—is the highest ever COVID-19 active cases in the State, going well past the 32,994 active cases recorded on September 4, 2020 during the peak of the first wave. April 18 also saw the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities, 15, on a single day in Telangana.

Another indication of the wide spread of the virus during the past week in the State has been the growth rate: Between April 11-18, the number of new infections grew by an average of 1 per cent every day. The State has a COVID-19 active ratio of 11 per cent, that is, in Telangana 11 persons out of every 100 confirmed cases are currently infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Confirming the arrival of the vaccine doses, Eatala Rajender, Telangana’s Health Minister, told Frontline that this consignment would be sufficient for just two days. He said: “Telangana has the ability to administer the COVID-19 vaccines to even 10 lakh people on a single day, but where are the vaccines? My health officials are in regular touch with their counterparts in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. But when supplies aren’t coming from the Centre, how do you expect us to proceed with administering the vaccine doses?”

Rajender also said that the Centre was yet to respond to his repeated request that all citizens above the age of 25, not 45 as is the case now, should be given the COVID-19 vaccine. He also said that he has been speaking to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan regarding this and that Harsh Vardhan was yet to respond. Explaining the rationale behind his request, the Minister said that an increasing number from the younger generation were being infected by the coronavirus during the second wave, as compared with the first wave last year. Said Rajender: “We are seeing more youngsters being admitted to hospitals and even among the fatalities.” He hoped that the Centre would take steps to overcome the shortage of COVID-19 vaccines.

Telangana has been vaccinating around 1.5 lakh people every day since the vaccination campaign took off. The State is hoping that by the end of June, the entire targeted population of around 1 crore can be vaccinated. Telangana, until the evening of April 19, had vaccinated 30,94,140 persons; while 27,08,197 have been administered just their first shot, 3,85, 943 have been given both their shots.

The Minister also confirmed to Frontline that there was no shortage of oxygen or hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in the State. “We have around 60,000 beds available in both the government and private hospitals. Of course, not all of them have ventilators.” Commenting on the need for oxygen, Rajender disclosed that Telangana currently required around 260 tonnes of oxygen a day. The demand was likely to go up to 300 tonnes to 350 tonnes, thanks to the increasing number of COVID-19 patients. “I have got in touch with the Centre to ensure uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen. As you are aware, oxygen production comes under the sole purview of the Centre. We cannot even produce it. Hopefully, now that the Centre has decided to ban the supply of oxygen to industrial units [barring nine sectors] from April 22, the supply of oxygen will improve.”

The Minister said there was not much the government could do: “The spread of the virus is purely because people had become complacent. Even today, there are many people who refuse to follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour. We have been requesting people to follow the mask mandate and maintain social distancing. In the first wave, COVID-19 symptoms were seen 10 to 12 days after a person got infected, but during this second wave, the time between infection and symptoms manifesting themselves has come down to hardly 2 to 3 days. This is making treatment even more difficult.”

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