VIJAYAWADA: The rapid spread of Covid-19, which was witnessed in urban areas such as Vijayawada, Kurnool and Guntur, has now shifted to rural areas. The State health department said this was expected, and containing the spread of the disease is not difficult. “It’s just a matter of time,” Commissioner, Health and Family Welfare Katamneni Bhaskar told TNIE.
Explaining why the spread of the disease shifted from urban to rural areas, Bhaskar said Andhra Pradesh is primarily a rural state with urban pockets. “When the state was hit by the pandemic, most cases were in urban areas, which grabbed attention. We were also barely aware of the medication and preventive measures in the initial stages, which led to the spread across the globe. By the time we had information and measures to try to contain the virus, it must have reached the rural areas. This, accompanied by lack of understanding of the importance of following guidelines, to some extent led to the shift. But steps have been taken to educate the rural population, and it won’t be difficult to contain the spread. It’s just a matter of time,” he reasoned.
Speaking about the State’s mortality rate, which is around 0.83 per cent, with over 5,400 deaths, Bhaskar said, “We have successfully brought it down from more than one per cent. The process is difficult, but we are taking all needed steps. The biggest challenge is not getting enough days to treat patients.”
“Nearly 85 per cent of the deaths in Andhra Pradesh were only because doctors did not have enough days to treat patients. They got a maximum of two days. If patients are brought early and doctors get at least a week, patients can be saved. Earlier, people used to wait till their condition became serious, but as people became more aware and started visiting hospitals early, the mortality rate went down,” he added.
Asked about AP being the second-worst affected State in India, he said it did not imply that the management was poor. “In a way, it means the management is better than in other States. More cases are detected when more tests are done. For instance, if we conduct 10,000 tests per day, and if another State conducts only 7,000 tests, naturally, the number of positive cases here will be more,” he said.
“Numbers are tricky. They are nothing unless you understand the meaning behind them. At present, we have over six lakh cases, and Telangana has less than two lakh. But we might have 10 lakh more cases and they might have 20 lakh that are yet to be discovered. If they discover their 20 lakh cases before we discover our 10 lakh, they will become the second-worst affected State and we will go down to third. There is no need to worry even if numerically we are in the top three because our strategy is correct,” he added.
Regarding the inconsistency in the number of cases reported per day in the past few weeks - it had significantly reduced for a week after being above 10,000, and has now risen to about 7,000 - he said there are various contributing factors, primarily the number of tests conducted per day. “On weekends, and sometimes when someone from the lab tests positive, we have to shut the lab for at least 24 hours to disinfect it. The number of cases reported every Monday will be less as many labs are closed on Sunday. These conditions lead to fluctuation in the number of cases reported every day. It does not mean there are problems with the management of the situation,” he said, and claimed the curve is on a downward trend.
Stating that Chittoor, Nellore and Prakasam districts are witnessing their peak, Bhaskar said Kurnool, Krishna and Guntur passed this phase, and the rest of the districts are in-between. “From our experience, each district experiences its peak phase of about 40 days. The measures taken throughout the State remain the same at each point. Only the focus or alertness of the State-level officials changes. However, there are no changes in the steps taken by the district administration,” said Bhaskar.
He further highlighted the role of technology in the fight against coronavirus. “It was helpful to spread awareness through social media, speakers etc. Also, to maintain a record of incoming people and those being admitted, and to develop applications to save the details of people under treatment, foreign returnees, and returnees from high-risk states,” he pointed out.
‘Not complacent in fighting virus’
As per our assessment, all 13 districts have crossed the infection peak... Even while our positivity rate and daily deaths per million have reduced, there are now more cases and deaths in rural areas. We are therefore not complacent and are focused on containing infection in the rural areas, CM Jagan said