The Covid-19 infection in Odisha: Why numbers in Bhubaneswar are rising

Over the last couple of weeks, the state as a whole has been adding 4,000-plus cases every day.

Mostly unnoticed in the rest of India, the Covid-19 numbers in Odisha have been rising steadily. As of Tuesday (September 22), Odisha, with 1,84,122 cases, was No. 8 in the list of top 10 states with the largest caseloads — and, with a surge of 4,242 cases on Monday, also one of the states with the largest numbers of new cases.

These numbers are small compared to the big hotspots states of Maharashtra (12.24 lakh cases; surge of more than 15,000 on Monday), Andhra Pradesh (6.31 lakh; 6,200), Tamil Nadu (5.47 lakh; 5,300); and Karnataka (5.27 lakh; 7,300), but the rate of growth of the infection in Odisha remains fairly high.

Over the last couple of weeks, the state as a whole has been adding 4,000-plus cases every day. The disease has been growing the fastest in Khurda district, which has been surging at the rate of 600-800 cases daily since the beginning of this month. By contrast, Ganjam, which was the biggest hotspot in the state until a few weeks ago, has added only about 1,500 cases this month.

Case of the capital: easing of restrictions

Between June 17 and July 17, Odisha’s capital Bhubaneswar added only 894 cases; and in the following one month, 4,444 cases. Between August 17 and September 17, however, Bhubaneswar added 11,808 cases.

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Until August, Bhubaneswar had continued to observe restrictions on inter-district movements, and went into lockdown on the weekends. However, in tune with the nationwide easing of restrictions — and since the number of cases was still relatively low — all curbs were eased and night curfew was lifted in September.

Officials blamed the spike on poor compliance of Covid-19 norms by the public such as not wearing masks or not maintaining social distancing. The easing of restrictions on movement saw an influx of people to the city from the districts.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed his displeasure over the inadequate enforcement of Covid-19 norms in Bhubaneswar, and asked the DGP to intervene directly. The police thereafter intensified enforcement measures in the hotspot areas, and increased deployment of personnel.

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Ramped up testing

In all of May, only 3,000 tests were conducted in the state; Bhubaneswar is now conducting 3,500 daily tests on average. Apart from the tests at the 16 health care centres, mobile testing vans have also been deployed to increase testing in the city.

‘Cases yet to peak’

According to health experts in the state, Bhubaneswar is yet to reach its peak in terms of Covid-19 cases. “The initial restrictions helped control the virus but with unrestricted movement, the virus started to spread. Asymptomatic cases and pre-symptomatic cases which were not detected on time escalated the case numbers further. Rigorous contact tracing can be done when the cases are detected. It is a natural course of the infection, and until and unless a larger part of the population does not develop immunity, the infection will rise. Bhubaneswar is yet to reach its peak and the number of cases will then eventually reduce,” a health official said.

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