Odisha cuts down on staff, infrastructure engaged in Covid containment amid rising cases
Health department officials are perplexed as to how districts and urban local bodies will function without the required manpower at a time when there is every possibility of an increase in cases.
BHUBANESWAR: Even as new Covid-19 cases in Odisha are on an upward spiral matching the national trend, the State government’s decision to reduce manpower engaged in pandemic containment and de-hire infrastructure has left the health experts perplexed. A day after a marginal drop, infections rose again with the State reporting 38 cases in the last 24 hours and pushing the active cases over 200, the highest since April 5. As many as 41 cases were detected on June 16, the maximum daily tally in one month.
Amid the rising Covid graph, the government has decided to reduce manpower deployed in containment measures, including surveillance, testing, tracking and treatment. An order issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department on June 17 stated, “Whereas there is a declining trend of Covid positive cases in the State, districts and medical colleges will follow the guidelines issued on March 29 and reduce manpower accordingly.”
For Covid surveillance and testing, the order stated, that one vehicle will be allowed for each district having six blocks or less and two vehicles for each district having more than six blocks. If more vehicles had been hired, they should be immediately de-hired.
Experts working in collaboration with the Health Department for containment of the Covid pandemic for the last two years wondering how could the districts and urban local bodies function without the required manpower at a time when there is every possibility of a resurgence given the situation in the country.
“Directors of different health wings have been stressing on intensified surveillance and mobilisation of resources for testing and vaccination for the last one week as the State is seeing a steady rise in new cases. How and who will do surveillance and testing if human resources are to be reduced and surveillance vehicles de-hired apart from other required infrastructure,” they questioned.
The order is confusing as at one point it has asked to reduce resources and at the other-directed districts to make Covid testing available in all health facilities and RT-PCR swab collection in all CHCs besides continuing the Covid death audit as usual until further notice.
Though the State government has stressed maintaining an adequate testing level as per the ICMR guidelines and SARI/ILI surveillance to predict an early upsurge, the districts are yet to act on it. The number of testing has come down from a range of 20,000 last month to 10,000 now.
While Director of Public Health Dr Niranjan Mishra did not respond to the calls, a senior official on the request of anonymity said the order has been issued as per the decision taken earlier. “A high-level meeting has been called in June last week to take further decisions on the rising trend,” he said.