Having opened its borders for unrestricted inter-state mobility, hotels hitting back business—almost packed at the weekends, bars, restaurants and markets crowded reflect as if Himachal Pradesh has turned corona free.
The reality is hard to believe.
With winter coming near and snowfall expected to begin in the mountains, the state is not only seeing a spurt in the cases but a high rate of deaths.
“What worries most are deaths related to comorbidities, which counts 72.2 percent of the total number of persons losing their lives due to coronavirus. The spike in the cases is not unexpected as we are testing 3,000 to 3,500 cases daily, the real concern is how to secure 11 lakh vulnerable people with comorbidities”, Dr Nipun Jindal, Mission Director, National Health Mission (NHM) told Outlook.
The audit of deaths done by the state’s health department, this week, reveals that of a total of 214 corona deaths,174 persons were having a medical history of ailments like diabetes (88)—almost 50 percent of the total, hypertension (62), kidney ailment (24), and lung problem (19).
The State’s biggest district -- Kangra, which ranks at number two in terms of total COVID cases, reported a total of 54 deaths of which 40 related comorbidities. Bilaspur has 100 percent deaths related to comorbidities though the number is lowest at 4.
In terms of gender ratio among fatalities 68.9 percent were male and 31.1 percent female.
There is another figure sending alarms to the health authorities. It is about the age-wise analysis of the persons who have died.
In the age group of 60 to 70, the number of deaths in the state has reached 62 followed by the age bracket of 50 to 60 with 59 deaths. Luckily there is no COVID death in the age distribution of 0 to 10 years but two deaths reported in the next category of 10 to 20 years. This also included a 19-year youth, who died at Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla with serious kidney ailment.
The highest number of deaths reported was 13 in a single day in September. The average remains from seven to nine deaths. The total number of cases has already exceeded the 17,000-mark and 13,861 have got cured, of which 2,062 patients in home isolation have also recovered.
Three cabinet ministers, more than a dozen MLAs, top bureaucrats—including Additional Chief Secretary, Deputy Commissioner, Kangra, CM’s Private Secretary, several government officials, and journalists are among those who have fallen prey to the dreaded disease and are now on the recovery stage.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who came in contact with BJP MLA from Banjar (Kullu) during the Rohtang Tunnel event, is currently in self–isolation.
So what is the state government doing, after criticism by the opposition Congress in failure to handle the COVID crisis and people dying in the hospitals, IGMC Shimla also included? A 54-year old woman hanged herself in Shimla’s DDU hospital and a cabinet minister quit the hospital‘s COVID ward to save himself from the death.
Dr Jindal said, “ On hospital’s conditions, Chief Minister has already given a series of directions, which are being observed strictly but how to save state’s vulnerable population, there is a plan underway ."
He says since the health department already has data about persons with comorbidities collected in April 2020, during Active Case Finding (ACF) study --- which had also earned appreciations from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the health workers will reach out to each individual, as part of a special drive.
“The Asha workers, Anganwadi staff, and other gross rootworkers will contact every single individual daily ( 10-12 patients) to inquire about their death. Incase they report any complications, the treatment will immediately be done without loss of any time,” he assured.
As there is no timeline set when vaccines will be made available, the health department will also try to focus on awareness. It has been noticed that people are avoiding to consult the doctors fearing that they will get hospitalised – where conditions are not good. Thus, results in a delay in extending timely medical care.
Of 174 persons who died, 23 were declared brought dead to the hospital and a large number i.e. 105 died within 24 hours of reaching the hospital. 27 others died after 48 hours of hospitalisation.