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India Coronavirus Dispatch: Monsoon session starts without hustle-bustle

Demand for medical oxygen at record high, bed shortage in Bhubaneswar and 11 districts account for 42% of total deaths–news on how the country is dealing with the pandemic

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Coronavirus | Coronavirus Tests | Community Transmission

Parliamentary traditions: Many traditions of Parliament, formal and informal, were missing on Monday. The usual hustle-bustle of day one of the monsoon session was replaced by a sparsely attended Rajya Sabha and heavy social distancing measures in place in both houses. MPs also ditched papers for digital notes. It was also the first time that attendance was marked digitally via an app. Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress, for example, used his smartphone to read out his points. Polycarbonate sheets were used to create distancing barriers between MPs. BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab described the session as a ‘one-of-its-kind’ experience. He added that MPs have begun adjusting to the new culture. Although, there were some minor hiccups — MPs standing up to speak, for example — the protocols were largely adhered to in a greatly altered atmosphere. Read more here

Medical oxygen: The demand for medical oxygen has hit a record high in the country amid the continuing surge in Covid-19 cases. Over the last six months, the industry has already quadrupled its production per day but is still struggling to catch up with the demand. Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have all reported a shortfall in medical oxygen leading to deaths of critically ill patients. This medical oxygen used for treatment in hospitals is considered on par with a pharmaceutical drug. Cover, being a disease that primarily effects the lungs, leads to a shortfall in oxygen levels in a severely ill patient. In March, the industry was producing 750 tonnes of medical oxygen daily, while the figure today stands at 2,700 tonnes. Cover patients, however, require a lot of oxygen. According to one expert, a severely ill patient consumes 86,000 litres of oxygen per day. The fact that a low number of people have needed the supply so far is a relief. Read more here

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Bed shortage in Bhubaneswar: Bhubaneswar has been hit by a shortfall of beds at its Covid-designated hospitals. The state has now changed its strategy to make up for the deficiency. To end overstay at hospitals, patients will now be discharged 10 days after sample collection. In a meeting of state officials it was observed that SOP was not followed by district hospitals as many of them referred people to Bhubaneswar’s hospitals without having used their own facilities to the fullest. The state has even threatened to withhold payments to hospitals if there are deliberate delays in making ICUs functional. Further, it’s also asking officials to promote home isolation and enforce all private hospitals to earmark 10 per cent of their beds for Covid-19 treatment. Read more here

No man’s land between RAT and RT-PCR: In a tragic incident in Andhra Pradesh, a man who tested negative for Covid-19 twice with Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) was declared positive posthumously after an RT-PCR test was conducted. His family alleges that hospitals denied the man life-saving interventions because of the false negatives. RAT was introduced in India to complement RT-PCR testing and widen the net for testing and detection. Many people have died because of false negatives that RAT produced. Families that have pushed for RT-PCR tests have been turned away by authorities who tell them that the tests are unavailable. The government has since advised that people test negative by RAT should be tested again with RT-PCR depending on their symptoms. The real problem, however, say experts, is not the testing technique but the healthcare system which ignores even those who are clearly critically ill. Read more here

In Numbers

42 per cent deaths in 11 districts: 11 districts in India have reported over 1,000 deaths. Together, they account for 42 per cent of the total deaths in the country. Apart from the usual suspects like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune, the list also includes smaller urban centres like Nagpur, Nashik and Jalgaon. Nagpur and Nashik are among the top ten cities in terms of number of infections while Jalgaon has a much lower caseload. Three more districts from Maharashtra — Solapur, Kolhapur, and Raigad — are approaching the 1,000 deaths mark. This trend is not surprising considering the fact that the state accounts for 40 per cent of all Covid-19 fatalities in the country and reports the highest number of deaths daily. Read more here

Interview

‘A Pandemic is never absolutely over’: Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director of Medanta Hospital, in this interview speaks about the pandemic and the evolution of healthcare sector in India. The most significant development since the pandemic hit, he says, is the partnership between healthcare and government for the sake of public health. He also bats for a patient-first approach that caters to the personalised needs of the patient. Further, the bar for for hygiene and safety overall has gone up. On the whole, he feels that hospitals are better equipped now to deal with the situation. Most importantly, he adds that viruses remain and so will this one. The focus should therefore be on containment. Immunising everyone, especially in a country like India, can take decades. As far as lockdowns as a combating strategy goes, he says, “One lockdown, two lockdowns, no lockdowns or a smart lockdown?Read more here

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