Rajasthan: New hotbeds & old political games

A fresh spurt in cases in 13 districts in July points to a wider geographic spread of the pandemic in the State, and the ongoing political turmoil could only weaken the fight against it.

Published : Jul 23, 2020 16:30 IST

At a containment zone in Bikaner in Rajasthan on July 20. Bikaner is one of many districts where a fresh spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases was reported in July.

At a containment zone in Bikaner in Rajasthan on July 20. Bikaner is one of many districts where a fresh spurt in the number of COVID-19 cases was reported in July.

The ongoing political tussle in the Congress-led government in the State has grabbed the headlines, diverting attention from the rising graph of fresh COVID-19 infections.

On July 22, a fresh spurt in infections was reported from 13 districts across the State: Jodhpur, Jhunjhunu, Jaipur, Banswara, Alwar, Bharatpur, Ajmer, Hanumangarh, Baran, Kota, Dausa, Bundi and Ganganagar. The total number of confirmed cases rose to 31,599, with 581 fatalities so far.

From mid-May to June-end, the daily rise in the number of cases was in the 300-400 range with no trend of increase over time. However, a sharp increase from early July disrupted this relative stability of the situation. By the third week of July, the number of fresh cases reported every day crossed 900. A similar pattern was observed in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh too.

A gradual shift of the epicentre of confirmed cases has been one of the distinctive features of the COVID-19 trajectory in Rajasthan, particularly in July. From the very first case that was reported on March 3, with Jaipur as the epicentre, which later shifted to Bhilwara, the infections spread from a handful of districts to most parts of the State.

The bulk of the caseload was initially was in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Bikaner districts, but now cases in Alwar and Pali have added to the growing numbers significantly.

Widespread spike

On July 1, Jaipur district alone had more than 400 active cases. Seven other districts also reported a rather high number of active cases around the same time. Now, Jodhpur has taken the top spot in the number of confirmed cases, followed by Alwar, Jaipur, Bikaner, Pali and Ajmer.

These six districts account for more than 63 per cent of the cases in the State.

Until June 20, there were 14,537 confirmed cases, which doubled within a month. A closer look at the rising graph in June and July showed that from June 20 to July 1, the daily spike in cases was in the range of 300. Between July 1 and July 5, the daily number of cases began increasing and crossed 600 on July 5.

By the end of the first 15 days of July, the daily spike was 800-plus cases, with a new record of 934 cases reported on July 19, followed by 956 cases on July 20 and 983 on July 21.

The figures indicated that it was only a matter of time before the daily number of cases crossed 1,000. In fact, of the 33 districts in the State, Jodhpur and Alwar alone now account for 2,378 cases of the total number of 8,129 active cases.

While Jodhpur had the largest number of confirmed cases, Jaipur still accounted for the highest number of deaths at 179, followed by double-digit fatalities in Jodhpur, Bharatpur, Kota, Ajmer, Bikaner, Nagaur, Pali, Dholpur, Udaipur and Sirohi. In 19 other districts, the number of deaths was still below 10.

Low mortality rate

Despite the sharp spike in the daily number of positive cases, Rajasthan’s mortality rate of 1.84 per cent has been low, when compared with Uttar Pradesh (2.31 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (3.14 per cent), Karnataka (2.07 per cent) and Gujarat (4.36).

Similarly, it recorded a high rate of recovery and a relatively low percentage of currently infected persons when compared with some of the other States.

For instance, the percentage of currently infected persons in Rajasthan was 26 per cent, compared with 37.91 per cent in Uttar Pradesh; 29.39 per cent in Madhya Pradesh and 62.1 per cent in Karnataka.

The percentage of active cases in Haryana and Gujarat was marginally less than Rajasthan. However, Rajasthan’s testing rate was higher than that of some of its neighboring States and even a notch higher than that of Karnataka, which was emerging as a new epicentre of infections in the country.

Rajasthan had conducted 16,442 tests per million population, compared with Haryana’s 16,313, 7,674 in Madhya Pradesh, 8,283 in Gujarat and 16,182 in Karnataka.

Concerned over the spike in cases, the Directorate of Medical and Health Services issued a notification on July 15 directing dedicated COVID-19 hospitals in districts to submit daily reports by 11 a.m.

The Health Department was also instructed to follow up on testing, assess the district-wise positive cases and submit daily reports. In the first week of July itself, the government cancelled all under-graduate and post- graduate exams given the spread in infections.

Aware of the possibility of water-borne diseases and other seasonal outbreaks such as dengue, malaria, chikungunya, swine flu and scrub typhus, the Health Department on July 14 issued an advisory to all department heads directing that 24/7 control rooms and rapid response teams be constituted.

The sharp spike in the number of new cases recorded every day is a matter of concern as it indicates a weakening of control over the epidemic, which can get out of hand.

The current political impasse in the State is yet to be fully resolved and in such a situation, things may get worse on the COVID-19 control front.

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