CHANDIGARH: The second wave of Covid-19 has proved deadlier for rural Punjab as more than half of those testing coronavirus positive have died.
In urban areas 77% are getting the virus, but the deaths are reported in 45% of them.
Government doctors and other health experts say more deaths in rural areas are due to the fact that the people are not going to hospitals despite symptoms, preferring self-treatment or quacks.
The rural-urban Covid count has emerged from data analyzed by the state health department.
It says the state has registered a 2.8% case fatality rate (CFR) in rural areas as compared to 0.7 per cent in urban areas.
It says most rural patients – as many as 83.92% of them — visited hospitals when their condition deteriorated.
Of them, 0.11% showed moderate and 7% mild symptoms. From January till April 29, deaths in rural areas were 1,156 (55%) and urban areas 952 (45%), positive cases 42,802 (23%) and urban areas 1,43,853 (77%).
As per the Covid-19 bulletin issued by the state government, Nawanshahr district, the first hotspot of the state, showed 257 deaths and 9,673 cases in the first two months of the year. But the fatality figure for March and April was 35 and 115.
Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, State Covid-19 Nodal Officer, said: “Patients from villages visit hospitals only when their condition deteriorates to an extent that they require ventilator support. As most of them have either high blood pressure or are diabetic, their cases get complicated. Self-medication or medicines prescribed by local medical practitioners add to the problems.”
“The people in rural areas have been opposing vaccination, another reason for a high death rate. They are yet to follow the Covid protocol of covering the face with a mask and maintaining social distancing,” he said.
A government doctor on condition of anonymity said: “In many cases, when our medical teams visited places for vaccination camps or sample collection, they were resisted by villagers. In some cases, we had to take police protection.”
A major spike in COVID-19 cases has been witnessed in the Malwa region of Punjab, officials said.
In neighbouring Haryana, 8,000 multidisciplinary teams led by trainee doctors, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Anganwadi workers, are being constituted for a door-to-door screening in villages, officials said.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday directed officials to set up isolation centres from May 15 in villages that come under the hotspot category.
In a review meeting, he said the COVID-19 spread is not confined to urban areas only, it is also hitting rural areas hard.
Khattar said those having COVID-like symptoms should immediately be quarantined.
Officials told the CM Khattar that initially there is a plan to set up 1,000 isolation centres for health checkup of villagers, an official statement said.
Khattar said 110 mini buses of Haryana Roadways are being converted into ambulances.
Five ambulance buses each will be made available in every district.
Apart from this, one big air-conditioned bus will also be available in every district, which can be used as an isolation centre, he added.
Meanwhile, a senior Punjab health official said, "The health staff will collect samples of symptomatic people and their family members in rural areas."
Services of the paramedical staff are also being utilised to conduct surveys of the rural population and ensure that maximum sampling is done, the officials said.
The health authorities ascribed the higher death rate in rural areas to the self-medication by villagers and delay in going for testing.
People in rural areas take to self-medication or buy medicines from chemists for fever or any other problem but they do not get themselves tested, said officials.
But when they face breathing complications or when they are at an advanced stage of the disease, they get themselves admitted to hospitals, they further said.
Officials have also stressed that there was a need to prioritise monitoring of home isolation cases to identify serious patients in rural areas.
The Punjab Health Department has also directed that COVID-19 testing of symptomatic patients getting treatment from private clinics and registered medical practitioners in rural areas must be ensured.
Earlier, Haryana CM Khattar had said since the infection is spreading fast in rural areas, screening camps focusing on "test, track and treat" should be held.
Haryana's Home and Health Minister Anil Vij said teams are conducting surveys in rural areas.
On 21 people dying in Rohtak's Titoli village in April, Vij had recently said only four of these were confirmed to have been died due to COVID.
There have been reports of nearly 40 deaths in Mundhal Khurd and Mundhal Kalan villages in Bhiwani in recent weeks, with many passing away within days away after suddenly taking sick.
Some opposition leaders claimed inadequate testing in rural areas and many of the deaths being reported recently could be because of COVID.
"We have been hearing of cases where a person was otherwise normal suddenly taken ill, developed COVID-like symptoms and died. However, in the absence of a test, the cause remains unknown," said a Haryana Congress leader.
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who sought setting up a task force to deal with problem in rural areas, said the "infection has reached villages from the big and small towns of the state and the death toll is rising in rural areas. A large number of people have died in villages like Titoli and Mundhal".
Punjab on Tuesday registered yet another record 217 Covid-19 deaths, pushing the toll to 10,918, while 8,668 new cases took the infection tally to 4,59,268, according to a medical bulletin.
The number of active cases rose to 76,856 on Tuesday from 75,800 the day before.
Among the fatalities recorded in the past 24-hours, 30 were reported from Ludhiana, 27 from Bathinda, 17 each from Amritsar and Patiala and 13 each from Sangrur and Muktsar.
The state had registered 198 Covid-19 fatalities Monday, which was a record till then.
Among the daily fresh cases, Ludhiana registered the maximum number of cases at 1,386, followed by 1,020 in Mohali, 702 in Fazilka, 682 in Bathinda and 638 in Patiala.
During the 24-hour period, 7,324 coronavirus patients were discharged, taking the number of recoveries to 3,71,494, as per the bulletin.
There are 324 critical patients who are on ventilator support while 9,652 are on oxygen support, the bulletin said.
A total of 78,68,067 samples have been collected for testing so far in the state, it said.
Meanwhile, the Union Territory of Chandigarh registered 787 fresh cases, taking the count to 51,857, according to a medical bulletin.
Ten more people succumbed to COVID-19, taking the toll to 585.
The number of active cases was 8,625, as per bulletin.
A total of 805 patients were discharged after they recovered from the infection, taking the number of recoveries to 42,647, as per the bulletin.
A total of 4,44,454 samples have been taken for testing so far and of them, 3,91,453 tested negative while reports of 108 samples were awaited, as per the bulletin.
Haryana on Tuesday reported 144 COVID-19 related deaths, taking the cumulative toll to 5,910, while 11,637 fresh infections pushed the total case count to 6,40,252, according to official figures.
It was after a gap of several days that the number of daily fatalities and cases in the state registered a slight fall.
According to the health department's daily bulletin, the latest deaths include 18 from Rohtak,16 from Mahendragarh, 14 from Karnal, 13 from Gurugram and 12 from Hisar district.
Among the districts which continued to report a big spike in cases include Gurgaon (2,659), Faridabad (1,255) and Hisar (928).
The number of total active cases in the state was 1,08,997.
The total recoveries so far were 5,25,345, with over 4,000 patients recovering during the past 24 hours.
The cumulative positivity rate was 8.07 percent, and the recovery rate 82.05.
(With PTI Inputs)