- As on July 25, Telangana had 12,264 active COVID-19 cases
- Telangana has dedicated 116 hospitals for treatment of COVID-19
- The state is testing over 15,000 people per day: Telangana Government
New Delhi: Telangana, is among the top 10 states in the country that are the worst affected by COVID-19 with 12,264 active cases and seeing over 1,000 new cases every day. According to the State Director of Public Health G Srinivasa Rao, coronavirus has reached the community in Telangana. This means that now it is not possible to know how the transmission is taking place among the people. The citizens of Telangana are advised by the state authorities to stay at home and take all necessary precautions against the novel coronavirus like wearing a mask before stepping out, maintaining physical distance and hand-washing. In a press conference Mr. Rao said that the state is focusing on early identification and treatment of COVID-19 in its efforts to fight COVID-19.
Here is how Telangana has fared so far in its fight against COVID-19 and what is the state’s plan to deal with the challenges ahead.
Maximum Surge In Confirmed Cases Recorded The Last One Month
The first case of COVID-19 was recorded in the state on March 2 of a man who had travelled to UAE. After that the state recorded a sluggish increase in the number of confirmed cases per day through March, April and May and added 2,500 active cases over three months and according to the health department, almost all initial cases could be traced back to international travellers, migrant returnees, their contacts or the participants of a religious congregation held in Delhi in the month of March. Till the week ending March 31, the new cases per week were in double digits. In the week ending April 8, it increased to triple digits. Till the week ending May 20 the curve somewhat flattened with a few weeks in between reporting in double digits again.
However, in the past one month, a sudden spike in the number of cases has been recorded on a daily basis as the number of cases increased five fold from 10,444 on June 25 to 54,059 on July 25. According to an official at the state health department, this surge can be attributed to the graded opening of the economy from the complete lockdown.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Telangana, as on July 25, includes 12,264 active cases. The total fatalities as on July 25 are 463 which is about 0.86 per cent of total cases, much less than the national average of 2.3 per cent. The state has been able to cure 41,332 people which is 76.45 per cent of THE total cases, higher than the national average of over 63.6 per cent, according to the data reported by the Department of Public Health and Family Welfare of Telangana.
The areas under Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) have been reporting maximum per day cases. With 36,008 confirmed cases, GHMC has about 66.6 per cent of Telangana’s total confirmed cases. Other districts like Warangal Urban and Ranga Reddy are also emerging as new hotspots.
According to the Health Department Director, 80 per cent of the COVID-19 patients in the state are asymptomatic which means that they exhibit no symptoms of the infection.
Status Of COVID-19 Testing In Telangana
According to the Department of Public Health and Family Welfare, the state has conducted over 3.5 lakh (3,53,425) tests, as of July 25. About 15,000 tests are being conducted daily at present but according to the state authorities, arrangements have been made to soon increase the daily testing to over 20,000 per day. There are currently, 16 government laboratories and 23 private laboratories approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that are testing for COVID-19. Apart from these, the state has set up 320 Rapid Antigen Testing Centres in Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) in rural areas and other hospitals. Rapid Antigen Tests help in detecting the presence of antigens carried by the virus in a person, usually within a few minutes.
According to the state health department, the two lakh rapid antigen kits obtained earlier by the state government have almost been used and another two lakh kits are likely to be procured soon.
Telangana’s Health Infrastructure And Challenges Faced By The Healthcare Staff In The State
According to the Department of Public Health and Family Welfare, Government of Telangana, as of July 25, there are 116 hospitals treating COVID-19 patients which includes 61 government hospitals and 55 private hospitals. There are 11,928 isolation beds for COVID-19 patients in hospitals out of which 627 are occupied while 11,301 are vacant, as 0f July 25. The total number of beds with oxygen support is 3,537 of which 1,190 beds are occupied and 2,347 are vacant. The number of ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds in the state is 1,616 of which 317 are occupied while 1,299 are vacant. The state has 1,117 ventilators, as on July 25.
The state has recently started the first COVID-19 plasma bank at the ESIC (Employees State Insurance Corporation) Medical college, Hyderabad and has been conducting awareness drives to encourage recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma in order to help save life of critical patients.
The government of Telangana allotted Rs. 100 crore from the state exchequer in the month of March with an aim to intensify the response against the pandemic. The state is running an emergency care number (1800 5994455) for COVID-19 patients.
There are more than 9,700 COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms in home isolation. The government of Telanagana is providing free Home Isolation Kits for the patients in home isolation that contain essentials like medicines, masks, hand wash, sanitiser, gloves and also a booklet with home isolation precautions.
Bhupal, state president, Telangana United Medical and Health Employees Union who has been closely observing the pandemic in the state highlighted that there is a dearth of doctors, nurses and other medical staff in the state. He said that currently, the doctor to population ration in the state is over 1,250 persons covered by one doctor which is inadequate when compared to the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommended doctor to population ratio of 1:1,000. Bhupal further said,
There are 61 government hospitals in the state that are dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients. The biggest problem that the state is currently facing is of the lack of medical staff in government hospitals including doctors, nurses and lab technicians. Even the cleaning staff is not sufficient. More than 10,000 medical posts are lying vacant as of now, in the state including 2,500 posts for doctors. It was only recently after there was a sudden spike in the number of cases that the state government announced that it has initiated the process of recruitment of 1,200 doctors.
He added that because of the lack of medical staff, the existing doctors and nurses are overburdened because of which the care provided in the government hospitals is not adequate, forcing people to spend high amount of money at private hospitals. He said,
The worst sufferers due to the lack of medical staff are the people from the low-income groups because unlike the upper-middle-class and the rich, they don’t have a choice to get better treatment at private hospitals as they cannot afford it. The health department says that a lot of beds in government hospitals are still vacant, which is true but they should not ignore the reason for these vacant beds. Cases are increasing progressively every day. But most of the patients are opting to get treatment from private facilities due to the poor condition of public hospitals. This is an extremely sad situation because the government was supposed to tackle the issues related to health infrastructure and staff during the lockdown. The doctors and nurses in government hospitals like Gandhi Hospital and Osmania General Hospitals in Hyderabad are working overtime to serve the patients as much as they can. They work for 15 days at a stretch for over 12 hours per day and are required to be in home quarantine for the next 15 days. The government has not provided any support or quarantine facilities to the medical staff because of which they face additional stress caused by the fear of infecting their own family members during the home quarantine.
The State Director of Public Health G Srinivasa Rao has asserted that while more hospitals in Telangana will be made ready for COVID duties, some 21 private medical colleges in the state will soon provide free of cost treatment for COVID-19. He said that this step is being taken in order to curb the high charges levied by private hospitals.
According to a doctor (who wishes to remain anonymous) working in Gandhi Hospital, Hyderabad which is the biggest COVID-19 hospital in the state, the maximum staff of the hospital has been hired on contract basis and are not been given proper and timely remuneration. While talking about the problems being faced by the medical community in the state, he said,
About 200 staff nurses and 600 sanitation staff members went on a two-day strike raising the issue of exploitation of the medical staff and to demand a better salary. Almost 300 doctors also participated in the strike on Day 1. They have been working tirelessly but some of the staff members are not getting salaries on time. Many staff members who are on contract are not getting incentives. Currently, in Telangana, the doctors and nurses are fighting this very challenging fight against coronavirus, all alone. Till now, more than 70 doctors and several nurses have been infected with COVID-19 in the state. A few them have succumbed to the disease.
He further said that the strike has been called off after the state government gave the assurance of increasing salary.
Niaramma, Head Nurse at a public hospital asserted that a large proportion of nurses in the state are women and they are facing difficulties because they are required to work continuously for 8-10 hours per day without any break to tackle the ongoing pandemic situation in the state. She said,
The nurses working in the COVID wards are struggling a lot as they are required to work without any breaks for hours wearing the Hazmat suits which becomes even more challenging when they are menstruating. They are with the patient much more than the doctors as they have to monitor the patients continuously. But that’s not it, along with monitoring their health, they are the ones who have to support the patients and their families mentally as well even when they act rudely with them. So at the end of the day, the nurses are tired not only physically but mentally too. A lot of nurses have become sick over the past 4-5 months. Even then, for them, caring for patients is of prime importance.
She further said that since the crisis has intensified over the last one month, the nurses working in the non-COVID wards are becoming more vulnerable because they are not provided with proper personal protective equipments (PPEs). She said,
Asymptomatic cases are much more than the symptomatic cases in the state. So you never know if the patient visiting hospitals for non-COVID ailments are infected or not. While we can argue that all patients visiting hospitals must get a COVID-19 test done, it may not be possible in case of emergencies. So the only way out in this scenario is to arm the nurses, whom you refer to as warriors, with protective equipments like face shields, masks, gloves and sanitisers.
Early Responses To The Pandemic
On March 21, the state government issued the Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020. As of now, these regulations are valid till March 2021, according to the Department of Public Health and Family Welfare. These regulations mandate for establishing dedicated COVID-19 corners in all government and private hospitals in the state. For mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Telangana ordered for the closure of cinema halls, amusement parks, swimming pools, gyms and museums on March 14.
To further restrict the movement of people, the state strictly implemented the nationwide lockdown announced by the central government on March 24. However, the public/private bodies providing essential commodities and services were exempted from these restrictions. While the central government allowed certain movements in less-affected areas of the country, the state of Telangana continued with the restrictions until May first week.
Measures Undertaken By The State To Provide Relief To The Poor
In order to provide support to the poor and needy who are facing the wrath of the pandemic in terms of loss of livelihoods and the homeless, the state has been running 155 Annapurna Canteens across the state. According to an official from the Department of Labour, Annapurna Canteens provide healthy and hygienic food at Rs. 5 per meal which includes 450 grams of rice, 100 grams of dal, 150 grams of vegetable curry, a spoon of pickle and a sachet of water. Nearly two lakh meals are severed every day at these canteens since the pandemic hit the country, he said.
Along with providing affordable cooked meals, the state government announced on March 23 that it will be providing 12 kg of rice for free to all 87.5 lakh cardholders under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013. It also promised that all cardholders with be given a one-time support of Rs. 1,500 to meet expenditures on essential commodities. Kiramma, an ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife) in Khammam district shared that a lot of people she has been working with have received the promised ration and cash support.
According to the Department of Labour of Telangana, till now, more than 3 lakh migrant workers have returned to the state from various parts of the country. To help the migrant workers, the government provided them 12kg ration free of cost and promised Rs. 500 cash support per month for three months. While the migrant workers have received ration on time, some of them have not received the cash benefit after the first month, said Bhupal.
The situation of COVID-19 pandemic in Telangana has been getting worse as it has now entered the community transmission stage. The state officials are, however, certain that the situation can be reversed with the support of the people. Along with numerous awareness campaigns, the daily bulletin released by the state reminds people to follow social distancing, wash hand regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and cover the nose and mouth while stepping out. Experts and doctors, on the other hand, suggest that in order to be successful in the fight against COVID-19, the state government needs work towards improving health systems on a war footing with the prime motive of preventing deaths.
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