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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Covid - cities opening up ! ~ how well has your State handled & Kerala model !!

India has overtaken Brazil to now become the country with the second-largest number of people infected with novel coronavirus. More than 41.13 lakh people in India have so far been found to have been infected with the virus. Brazil, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, has 40.41 lakh infected people. Only the United States, where more than 60 lakh people have so far been infected, is ahead of India now. In the process of overtaking Brazil on Saturday, India also scaled a new high in the number of new cases detected in a single day. More than 90,000 new infections were discovered on that day. No country has recorded more than 75,000 new cases in a single day since the outbreak began.


Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar has indeed been doing a good job, in relentlessly visiting the medical facilities, hospitals, meeting patients and checking the standard of treatment.  

Kerala on Saturday reported 2,655 new COVID-19 cases,  Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said currently, 21,800 people are under treatment in the state forCOVID-19, and 62,559 people have so far been cured of the disease.  The first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala (which was also the first in all of India) was confirmed in Thrissur on 30 Jan 2020. As of 6 Sept, there have been 87,841 confirmed cases.  The largest single-day spike was reported (3082 cases) on 6 September and Kerala now has the 14th highest number of confirmed cases in India. The state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, is the worst hit

For sometime it was Maharashtra and the small state of Delhi vying for the most affected, then Tamil Nadu was 2nd for long.  Now Maharashtra (as of Sat night) has 883862; Andhra Pradesh 487331; Tamil Nadu 457697; Karnataka 389232 & Uttar Pradesh 259765, being the top 5 states.

Lot of bad news emerging from Kerala which at some point announced that it had contained Covid.  A driver of the 108 ambulance service has been arrested for allegedly raping a young woman, a COVID-19 patient, while on her way to the hospital in Kerala's Pathanamthitta, about 100km north of capital Thiruvananthapuram, the police said. According to officials at the Pandalam police station, the incident happened late Saturday night when the accused was taking two patients - an elderly woman and the 19-year-old rape survivor - to different hospitals in the ambulance, a complaint in the matter stated. The driver, 25-year-old Nowfal, has been removed from the 108 ambulance service.

Recently,  18  junior doctors working as the frontline warriors for containing the Covid-19 pandemic approached the Kerala High Court seeking a directive to the government to disburse salary along with arrears immediately. The petitioners also sought a directive to ensure service conditions such as designation, salary, duty time, off day/ quarantine, leave, and holidays as granted to other doctors in the service of the state government forthwith.  According to the petitioners, though the government has fixed a pay of Rs 42,000 to the junior doctors, not a penny has been disbursed to them till date. They are rendering their duty by spending money from their own pockets.

The illegality and discrimination that are being faced by the petitioners are not merely limited to the payment of remuneration. The consolidated payment fixed by the Government is no way in par with what the similarly footed persons receive under the National Health Mission, National Rurla Health Mission, and State service. Despite the fact that the service conditions of the petitioners would be communicated as decided by the Government, till the date no orders have been issued by the state to lay down the service conditions, the petition said. "This causes grave illegality," it said.

As the state reels under health crisis following increasing Covid cases, junior doctors designated for Covid duty are all set to resign after their remunerations deducted and being treated unfairly with other doctors under health mission. As many as 868 junior doctors belonging to the Covid First-Line Treatment Centers (CFLTCs) and other state-run health care centres have informed the health department that they will be tendering their resignation on Sept  10 if the government does not reconsider their decision to deduct 20 per cent of their salaries along with other tax deductions. Members of the Kerala Junior Doctor’s Association alleged that they are being mistreated when it comes to the pay-scale wherein their peers from the National Health mission are being provided with the full pay without any ‘Salary Challenge’ deductions and tax deductions.

“We are working continuously for ten days without a break at the CFLTCs and work on shift basis tirelessly at the primary health centres like all other doctors. But the government and the health department has backtracked on their assurances and humiliated us”, said Ousam Hussain, a junior doctor at the Cheruvady primary health centre in Kozhikode. However, the government is yet to provide an assurance to the doctors who are on the verge of mass resignation.

The state received international recognition for its COVID-19 response, originally adhering stringently to the World Health Organisation's 'test, trace and isolate' protocols, while leveraging its previous experience in dealing with the Nipah outbreak in 2018 that saw it realise the importance of acting pre-emptively.  However, celebrations have proven to have been premature, with the state currently dealing with over 22,000 active cases as per the latest data from the Union Health Ministry. On September 1, Kerala had recorded 76,525 cases, 31 per cent of which were active – markedly higher than the national average of 21.. Even Maharashtra, which continues to be the hardest hit state in the nation, has a lower active cases to total cases ratio compared to Kerala.

Kerala's efforts to ramp up testing is also likely to have contributed significantly to the spike in the number of fresh cases being recorded. Till the month of July, the state was, reportedly, conducting just 10,000 tests per day, of which somewhere between 500 and 1,000 turned up positive.  It has now increased  testing to approximately 40,000 samples per day.  The neighbouring Tamil Nadu achieved a milestone in Covid-19 testing Thursday with the overall samples examined till date crossing the 50-lakh mark.  Tamil Nadu has been among the states conducting a high number of tests daily.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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