Rural Telangana bearing brunt of COVID-19

The rural areas in Telangana are bearing the brunt of COVID-19 even as the number of cases has considerably dropped in the state capital.

Districts outside Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) limits account for 80-85 per cent of the 2,200-2,300 new cases added to the state tally every day.

Till the first half of July, it was the state capital which was at the receiving end. With 700-800 cases every day, GHMC was accounting for 80-85 per cent of the daily infections at one point in time.

Thirty-two districts, excluding Hyderabad, accounted for 137 cases or 13.45 per cent of the 1,018 cases reported on July 1. The ratio of the districts jumped to 50.15 per cent on July 15 (801 out of total 1,597 cases).

The districts reported 1,364 or 72.65 per cent of the 1,891 cases on August 1. The case load in rural areas rose to 78.76 per cent on August 15 (868 out of 1,102 cases)

As many as 2,415 cases of the 2,892 (83.50 per cent) reported on September 1 were from these districts. A week later, the ratio climbed to 87.29 per cent (2,088 out of 2,392 cases). It slightly came down to 86.54 per cent (1,781 out of 2,058) on September 14 and further dropped to 85.6 per cent (1,818 out of 2,123 cases) on September 19 as authorities also reduced the number of daily tests by a few thousand.

An analysis of the current situation shows that the daily jump in cases has come down over the last two-three weeks but the numbers are dropping to below 2,000 only on weekends when fewer tests are conducted.

While there is definitely an improvement in the overall situation compared with last month, the spike in cases continues in Tier-II towns and rural areas, where the health infrastructure is still inadequate.

Considering the fact that Telangana is still adding 2,200-2,400 cases every day and 4-6 districts reporting a daily jump of over 100 cases, the health authorities meeting their ambitious goal of controlling the situation by the month-end appears doubtful.

Districts like Rangareddy, Medchal Malkajgiri, Karimnagar, Warangal Urban, Nizamabad, Khammam, Nalgonda, Suryapet, and Sangareddy are mostly reporting over 100 cases each every day.

Reports from these districts show that even small villages have over 100 positive cases. For instance, in Govindapur village of Karimnagar, 73 out of 90 families were affected.

Buoyed by the improvement in the situation in Hyderabad, Director of Public Health G Srinivas Rao exuded confidence on August 25 that the situation will be under control in the remaining districts by September-end. He was confident that the cases will be brought down to minimum.

Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar told Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba during a videoconference on Saturday that the number of positive cases has started declining in Telangana.

“The government is keeping a close watch on the situation and fully geared up to handle the pandemic,” he said.

Explaining various measures taken by the state, the Chief Secretary said that testing has been ramped up. RT-PCR testing is being done on every person found symptomatic person detected through rapid antigen test. The government has formulated a strategy to make all hospital beds equipped with oxygen facilities. He also said that special focus is laid on managing the situation in the districts.

On August 25, the state reported a jump of 2,579 cases, taking Telangana’s total tally to 1,08,760. Nine deaths had pushed the cumulative death toll to 770. Since then, the state added over 60,409 cases till September 19 at an average of 2,400 cases per day. The state also witnessed 255 deaths during the period.

Officials said by ramping up testing and health infrastructure, they brought down the COVID-19 fatality rate and improved the recovery rate as well as tests per million population ratio.

The fatality rate came down from 0.69 per cent on August 25 to 0.60 per cent on September 19. The recovery rate improved from 75.27 per cent to 81.28 per cent during the same period. Samples tested per million population have gone up from 27,502 to 64,104.

Facing flak from all sides for low testing, the state government has ramped up the testing over the last two months. Currently, 50,000 to 60,000 tests are conducted every day in Telangana.

The number of laboratories conducting tests has gone up from 47 to 60. These include 43 private laboratories. There are also 1,076 centres for rapid antigen tests.

The number of private hospitals treating COVID-19 has also gone up from 170 to 219. The number of government hospitals treating COVIC-19 patients total 42.

Over 150 private hospitals are located in Hyderabad and adjoining districts. There are 102 hospitals in GHMC area, 35 in Rangareddy district, and 15 in Medchal Malkajgiri. They include large corporate hospitals, which are also catering to coronavirus patients from neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Large government facilities for COVID-19 treatment are also concentrated in Hyderabad and the beds in some district hospitals are not vacant, forcing patients to head to the state capital.