As Unlock 4 comes into effect, Odisha sits at a critical juncture in its Covid battle. It has breached the one lakh tally mark and figures among the top 11 states. In about 30 days, the state has added over 65,000 cases. As one sees it, Odisha has not yet peaked and the numbers are set to surge further.
Back on August 1, when the tally of the state was 33,479, Ganjam, the worst-hit district, contributed a third of the total cases. Now, Ganjam sits with 17,672 confirmed cases, having considerably slowed down the infection rate, but other districts have not done as well. Statistics show at least 16 districts account for over 83% of the caseload and much of it is concentrated in the urban and semi-urban pockets, with a growing indication that the infection would penetrate the rural populace too. The spike in some of the tribal districts could be a cause of concern.
With the Centre opening up almost all sectors and even barring states from imposing lockdowns and shutdowns on their own, the Naveen Patnaik government would have to bring in a shift in its strategy. Much of the Covid-specific healthcare infrastructure it primed up when the pandemic began in March was created, operated and controlled by the government with certain collaborations. It paid off well, almost. The positivity rate of the state, at 5.8%, is less than the national average; it clocks a recovery rate above 70% and fatalities are one of the lowest in the country.
However, after five months, the frontline workers and the institutions are bound to develop fatigue. Naveen has exhorted his elected representatives to join the fight with all their might. Now when the critical care system gets exhausted and caseload rises, the government must ensure that its decentralised healthcare system is equipped for the future and private operators share the load without becoming opportunistic.
The virus threat is not going to vanish anytime soon as fresh waves are bound to appear. With activities thrown open for economic revival of the country, this fight will require the public health system to be strengthened to respond well in the longer run. That’s where the focus must be.