Haryana: Unchecked spread

Haryana’s strict lockdown measures do not seem to have succeeded in containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Published : Jul 23, 2020 18:24 IST

At a COVID-19  testing camp in a containment zone in Gurugram on July 18.

At a COVID-19 testing camp in a containment zone in Gurugram on July 18.

In the third week of July, the administration of the Union Territory of Chandigarh proposed a weekend lockdown to the governments of Haryana and Punjab following a surge in COVID-19 cases. This was on the presumption that cases were coming into Chandigarh from the two States. Both the State governments were reluctant to go in for a weekend lockdown.

The situation in Haryana is more serious than the one in Punjab. On July 21, fresh cases were reported from Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat, Rewari, Ambala, Palwal, Panipat, Fatehabad, Panchkula, Hisar and Mahendargarh districts. Three fatalities were reported from Sonipat and one each from Jhajjar, Hisar and Nuh, all of which are located quite far from one another geographically. The spread of cases beyond the handful of districts that were described as COVID epicentres in the State is in line with what is being observed in the rest of the country, indicating a wider reach of the infection.

Anil Vij, who holds the twin portfolios of Home and Health in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in the State, tweeted recently that the government could consider sealing Gurgaon, Faridabad, Sonipat and Jhajjar. A decision on this has not yet been taken. The spike in cases in these districts is at least partially owing to their geographical proximity to the National Capital Region and the movement of people in these areas. Had the government sealed off these districts early on, a spillover of the infection to other parts of the State might have been avoided. Each of the 22 districts in Haryana now has confirmed COVID cases.

Faridabad, Gurgaon, Sonipat, Rewari and Rohtak districts account for 63.05 per cent of the State’s caseload. Faridabad has the largest number of active cases followed by Gurgaon and Rewari. (In March, Gurugram reported the largest number of active cases.) A closer look at the trajectory of the disease in some districts shows that in the past one month alone, there has been an almost threefold increase in confirmed cases.

The pattern holds across the State. In Rohtak, considered Haryana’s political capital, the contagion picked up momentum in June. On June 21, there were only 427 cases reported in Rohtak, but on July 21 there were 1,178 cases. In Faridabad, 2,237 cases were reported as of June 21, but the number went up to 6,679 by July 21. In Rewari, which had reported a mere 148 cases until June 21, there were 1,108 cases within a month—a ninefold increase. Spikes were observed in Nuh, Ambala and Jhajjar (fourfold), Rewari (ninefold), Mahendargarh (fivefold), Hisar and Sonipat (threefold) and in Gurugram, where the increase was almost double. In fact, from mid July onwards, that is, roughly a fortnight after the “unlock” phase began, no fewer than 650 new cases have been reported every day on an average. In the intervening period between July 16 and 17, as many as 795 cases were reported in a single day.

Barring Panchkula and Kaithal, COVID-related deaths have been reported from all other districts. According to the State COVID Bulletin, as of July 21, 355 people had died (260 men and 95 women). In the 20-odd dedicated COVID hospitals, 165 COVID patients were in critical care: 133 on oxygen support and 32 on ventilators. The COVID-19 positive rate was 5.96 per cent; the recovery rate, 75.31 per cent; the fatality rate, 1.32 per cent; and the doubling rate, 22 days. There were 957.8 confirmed cases per million of the population against the national average of 894.4. By June 20, 2,12,430 people had been tested; the number rose to 4,57,319 by July 20.

Among the COVID-affected States, Haryana has more or less stayed in the 12th position from the top since the pandemic began. Crucially, it lost the opportunity to contain the infection notwithstanding some of the harshest lockdown measures that it adopted. There were strict instructions to the police to nab anyone found “jaywalking”. Even workers who came out to demand rations in Sonipat were lathi-charged. There were reports of women health workers being beaten up by the police in the initial days of the lockdown.

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