Telangana recorded a new highest-ever spike in the daily average of fresh coronavirus infections on Thursday when 3,840 active patients were added to the cumulative caseload. At the peak of the pandemic last year, the state had reported 3,018 new cases on August 25.
Even as the number of daily infections has already breached the 3000-mark three times this month, the health department has warned of a rapid rise in the caseload for the next four to six weeks in the state.
As the state grapples with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new trend is visible in the daily bulletins over the last three months. A look at the data issued by the Directorate of Public Health and Family Welfare on February 15, March 15, and April 16 — three dates when the new infections were 99, 157, and 3,840, respectively, shows a drop in the percentage of exposure to the virus in the age group 21-30 years, and 31-40 years. This is unlike last year when most cases were reported in these age groups.
On the other hand, the data shows a rise in the percentage of infections in the age group 51-60 years, 61-70 years, and also in 71-80 years. However, there is only a marginal rise in the percentage of infections in the age group 41 to 50 years and also 81 years and above. Similarly, infections in the age group 11-20 years have also gone up by nearly 2 percent.
A doctor at Gandhi General Hospital, Telangana’s premier center for Covid-19 care, said such numbers do not matter anymore. “There is a community spread and we are in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone is now at risk. There are no age or gender factors involved,” he said. According to him, vaccination of the aged population though reduces the severity of infection in them, those with comorbid conditions are still at high risk. “In the younger population, the amount of psychological stress is a major factor because it is hampering their immunity,” he added.
As of April 15, Telangana has provided a total of 22.9 lakh first doses of vaccination and another 3.3 lakh second doses as part of the ongoing inoculation drive. Of them, 18.6 lakh people above the age group of 45 years have taken the first dose and 88,256 have taken the second dose of vaccination. The rest is healthcare workers and frontline warriors.
Two important aspects to be noted here is that people under the age of 45 years are not yet eligible for vaccination in Telangana and that the percentage of symptomatic patients in the state’s cumulative caseload is huge, points out Dr. B R Shamanna, a Professor of Public Health at the School of Medical Sciences in the University of Hyderabad. As per the health department’s data, only 19.5 per cent of the state’s cumulative caseload is symptomatic. The percentage of symptomatic patients was nearly 30 per cent in February.
“A majority of people below the age of 45 years would be asymptomatic and would never find out unless tested. They can withstand. It would also mean that the younger age group has developed antibodies against the virus. But if you (government) are restricting people below 45 years from getting vaccinated, the strategy should also be about preventing those people in the age group 15 to 45 years from not coming in contact with those who are highly vulnerable,” he explained.
It was only a couple of days ago that Director of Public Health Dr G Sreenivasa Rao appealed to those persons who go out for work to wear a mask on their return even while inside their homes to prevent infecting other family members unknowingly. In his observation, a couple of hours or at most a day was enough to infect an entire household.
The professor feels that the ongoing second wave may see a large and sudden spike that would perhaps drop abruptly. “The second wave is not going to be as protracted as seen in the first wave last year. The number of susceptibles will start reducing as the number of people who have developed antibodies will increase predominantly either through natural infection or vaccination.”
As the cases rise rapidly, he said, it is important to manage and treat the infected persons in the next two weeks and ensure fewer patients reach the hospital. “The strategy should be to immediately set up micro-containment zones by identifying clusters. There is no need for a lockdown,” he said.
Talangana Covid-19 numbers
As of April 16, the cumulative caseload of coronavirus cases in Telangana stands at 3,41,885. As many as 30,494 persons are active patients undergoing treatment. Among them, 10,279 are admitted to different hospitals while the rest are in the home or institutional isolation. As many as 1,797 persons have succumbed to the virus to date. While the case fatality rate remains around 0.52 per cent, the recovery rate has dropped from 98.79 per cent on March 15 to 90.55 per cent as of April 16.
On Friday, the state government suspended non-covid treatment and out-patient services at Hyderabad’s Gandhi hospital and converted the facility once again into an exclusive COVID care center citing a rapidly rising number of new infections. As for a strategy, the government has ordered increasing the bed strength available for COVID treatment while ramping up testing and tracing, intensifying the ongoing inoculation drive, as well as enforcing Covid-appropriate behaviour among the public.