What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas

What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
Door to door health checkup of covid -19 conduct by BMC Health workers at Savitribai Fule nagar , Malad east in Mumbai.Door to door health checkup of covid -19 conduct by BMC Health workers at Savitribai Fule nagar , Malad east in Mumbai.BCCL
  • India has not only reported the highest number of infections in the past four weeks but is also among the few countries which have not been able to flatten its curve despite the lockdown.
  • Apart from India, Argentina, Ukraine, Iran, Indonesia, and Morocco are the countries whose COVID-19 cases have been on the rise.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak spread to 34 of India’s 112 poorest rural districts on April 15 after a large number of migrant workers headed home on foot. The number of affected districts rose to 98 in June, according to NITI Aayog.
  • Experts believe that India might soon become the worst-hit COVID-19 nation.
India is fast losing the benefits of the lockdown, which was one of the most stringent ones in the world. While it has built up some amount of health infrastructure to treat patients but the facilities can’t be easily moved.

On the other hand, the number of infections is rising faster than ever before. What’s worse? There are a large number of patients in new areas where the healthcare facilities are still lacking. Without timely action, India may lose its claim that it has managed to keep the death rate low.
What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
Hyderabad's Osmania General Hospital gets inundated with rainwater after the city received heavy monsoon showers, on July 15, 2020IANS

“Everything right now is indicating a massive surge in the caseload in the coming days. What is more worrying is we are inching toward the No. 1 spot globally.” Dr. Anant Bhan, a health researcher at Melaka Manipal Medical College in southern India told the New York Times.

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Dr Bhan further said that the coronavirus outbreak was limited to urban areas from March to late May, but the relaxation in travel restrictions has led to the spread of the virus in rural areas.

In India, about 600 million people reside in rural areas, and only 25% of them have access to public outpatient healthcare facilities, according to National Family Survey-4.

The COVID-19 outbreak spread to 34 of India’s 112 poorest rural districts on April 15 after a large number of migrant workers headed home on foot. The number of affected districts rose to 98 in June, according to NITI Aayog.

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What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
In May, big number of migrants from West Bengal living in the city queue up to board the bus to catch the first Special train to Kolkata from Surat. BCCL

More than 50% of COVID-19 cases in July and August — a time when India was adding over 50,000 new infections daily — were from rural districts. East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Ganjam in Odisha, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, and Ballari in Karnataka are the worst COVID-hit rural districts, the report by State Bank of India said.

Experts fear that given the lack of rural health infrastructure, the virus’ impact on rural communities could be catastrophic. India may have increased testing in urban areas, but the situation remains grim in rural areas.

MonthShare of rural districts in new COVID-19 cases
April23%
May27%
June24%
July 51%
August (till 13)54%
Source: SBI report.

A strong lockdown was a good start but it had to be followed up

What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
Migrant Worker moving to her village. BCCL

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In April, when COVID-19 started spreading in India — a country geographically close to China — had only 2% the number of cases. The number of deaths was only 1.5% of the total number of COVID-19. Experts then suggested that the second-most populated country might have avoided the threat and the lockdown may have worked. However, India’s COVID-19 trends now suggest otherwise.

COVID-19 InfectionsU.SIndiaBrazil
September 828, 56189,70617, 330
September 725,32575,02210,188
September 631,11091,72314,606
September 542,09290,60031,199
September 452,84987,11545,651
September 345,46484,15644,728
Source: worldometers.info

India is not only reporting the highest number of infections in the last four weeks but is also among the few countries that have not been able to flatten its curve despite the lockdown. Apart from India, Argentina, Ukraine, Iran, Indonesia, and Morocco are the countries whose COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since the beginning, according to John Hopkins University.

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India is also the second-worst hit nation by the coronavirus pandemic. AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria told NDTV that India might be witnessing the second wave of coronavirus.

A new record, and not the good kind — 90,000 cases in a day

What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
Asha workers going door-to-door for checking COVID-19 cases. BCCL

India reported 392 COVID-19 infections on March 22 — the day PM Modi first announced lockdown. Despite 75 days of strict lockdown, it reported over 90,000 COVID-19 daily for two consecutive days on September 6 and 7. In fact, it has become the first country to report such a massive spike in COVID-19 in 24 hours.
What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
Coronavirus Resource Centre, John Hopkins University & Medicine

“Under India’s lockdown, the curve did not bend,” T Sundaraman, the former executive director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre, an advisory body to the health ministry told the Scroll.in.
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India’s cases doubling at an alarming speed in recent weeks:

India’s COVID-19 tallyDoubling rate in days Date
10 lakh21 days July 16
20 lakh23 daysAugust 7
30 lakh16 daysAugust 23
40 lakh12 days September 5
Source: worldometers.info

While the total coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly, health authorities continue to insist that India also has one of the lowest case fatality rates (CFR) at 2%. Moreover, it has also managed to maintain a recovery rate at 77%. However, experts believe that the worst is yet to come.

India may become the world’s worst-affected COVID-19 nation soon
What India’s rising COVID-19 infections don’t⁠ reveal — the lack of health infrastructure in remote areas
A girl in queue to fill her water bottles at Rangpur Pahari slum. BCCL
One of the reasons why India is seeing such a massive spike in COVID-19 cases is an increase in testing. Two months ago, India was testing 200,000 samples a day and now the testing capacity has increased to a million a day. These tests are cheaper and faster but they also can give false outcomes.

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Moreover, the Indian government is also re-opening the economy. Metro services in several cities have resumed after a break of almost five months. Schools were also allowed to partially open, while colleges remain shut. Most states have allowed gathering of 100 people for marriage and other family functions with precautions.
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