COVID-19 Update

Odisha: Walking the extra mile

Print edition : August 14, 2020

Queuing up outside a public distribution centre in Bhubaneswar for the government’s free ration on July 21. Photo: Biswaranjan Rout

The State administration is trying to grapple with the situation arising out of the spread of the virus with pro-active measures such as plasma therapy and incentives for health workers.

With the spread of COVID-19 to hitherto unaffected areas, Odisha is staring at a difficult future. The State administration is grappling with the situation by enforcing lockdowns and shutdowns in the worst-hit areas, ramping up testing, enhancing surveillance and contact-tracing, and revamping the public health infrastructure.

The situation was under control until June-end when lakhs of migrant workers started returning home from other States. But the number of COVID cases detected outside the quarantine centres set up for the returnees kept growing in July. More than one-third of the new positive cases in the State are of local people living outside these centres.

Ganjam district, which saw the return of a large number of migrants, mostly from Gujarat, is the worst affected. Khorda district, in which Bhubaneswar is situated, closely follows it. The number of cases in the city  increased substantially after many natives of Ganjam walked back when lockdowns were lifted. There has been a substantial rise in the number of cases in the tribal-dominated districts in the State’s interior regions too.

By July 20, Ganjam had reported 5,991 cases, followed by Khordha with 2,098 cases when the State’s total tally was 18,757. Three other districts where COVID cases have been rising are Cuttack (1,327 cases), Jajpur (1,023 cases) and Sundargarh (828 cases). By July 20, as many as 12,910 persons had recovered in the State, while 133 persons died and 5,714 were under treatment. The State has tested 4,01,644 samples so far.

The government has enforced a 14-day lockdown in Ganjam, Khordha, Cuttack and Jajpur districts and Rourkela city in Sundargarh since July 17 evening. Aggressive surveillance is being conducted in these areas to contain the spread of the disease.

The restrictions in the four districts and Rourkela city were imposed after these areas accounted for 66 per cent of the total cases in the State. Ninety per cent of the cases in Sundargarh district were from Rourkela.

Plasma therapy

In order to prevent deaths from COVID-19, the State government has scaled up plasma therapy. Odisha is among the few States that have introduced advanced medical procedures for the treatment of seriously ill patients.

On July 15, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to all eligible donors from among the recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma. Apart from the SCB Medical College Hospital at Cuttack, which acts as the nodal centre, plasma therapy has been taken up in several private hospitals at Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Berhampur in Ganjam.

Many personnel of the Odisha Fire Service and the National Disaster Response Force who had tested positive for coronavirus following their deployment in cyclone-hit West Bengal have come forward to donate plasma after their recovery.

Patnaik has also included COVID-19 management in the “Mo Sarkar” programme to get feedback from patients and front-line workers with regard to improving the management of the situation.

In addition to the 35 COVID-19 hospitals covering all the 30 districts of the State with a total of 5,577 beds, the State government has set up 178 COVID Care Centres with 21,059 beds and thousands of quarantine centres at the gram panchayat level.

While many of these quarantine centres were closed owing to the decline in the number of returning migrants, the authorities have set up of 6,511 COVID Care Homes (CCHs) at the panchayat level with a total bed strength of 65,019. Each of these CCHs has facilities to accommodate up to 20 persons with symptoms of cold, cough and fever. As many as 1,341 cluster-level temporary medical centres (TMCs) have also been completed with 61,594 beds.

Apart from the existing COVID-19 hospital in Ganjam, a 100-bed new hospital has been set up in the district to cope with the growing number of cases. Two more Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, 25 Odisha Administrative Service officers, 105 Odisha Revenue Service officers, 30 MBBS doctors, 100 AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) doctors and 27 laboratory technicians have been sent to the district which accounts for 30 per cent of the total positive cases and 60 per cent of the total deaths in the State.

The State government has also warned private hospitals of serious action following reports that many of them are not admitting patients from districts such as Ganjam, Khordha, Jajpur and Cuttack.

A silver lining is the recovery of a 95-year-old man in Ganjam district on July 18. In May an 85-year-old woman from Jajpur had recovered from COVID. Said Naveen Patnaik in a tweet: “Congratulations to nonagenarian Udayanath Bisoyi from Ganjam district on successfully winning the battle against COVID-19. Your win will inspire others to stay strong as Odisha fights this pandemic.”

Patnaik has announced that doctors, paramedics and other assistants working in COVID-19 hospitals and COVID-19 health centres will get Rs.1,000, Rs.500 and Rs.200 a day respectively as incentive for the number of days they serve the patients. Accredited social health activists (ASHA) and Anganwadi workers engaged in door-to-door surveys will be given Rs.1,000 per month as incentive from July to October.

Patnaik has also lauded officials and policemen who have rejoined duty on recovery from COVID-19 and appreciated the role of seven million women’s self-help group members working at the grass-root level to contain the pandemic.

Odisha recorded its first COVID-19 positive case on March 15 and the total had reached 7,316 by June end. But more than 11,000 cases were added in just 20 days in July. In such a scenario, all those fighting the pandemic have to walk that extra mile.