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COVID-19 cases on the rise in rural Odisha, containment zones emerge

A health worker collects swab from a woman for the Covid-19 coronavirus checking at a dispensary in Bhubaneswar. File   | Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

During past three days, Kailash Chandra Behera, Block Development Officer (BDO) of Ersama in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, has received distress calls about COVID-19 cases rising in at least four places in his administrative area.

In Gadaharishpur gram panchayat of Ersama where three villages have already been declared as containment zones, 14 out of 20 rapid antigen tests conducted on Saturday turned out to be positive.

“More than 100 villagers with COVID-19 symptoms were already under medication in Gadaharishpur, Asia and Garia villages without COVID-19 tests and doctors prescriptions. We conducted 20 antigen tests and 70% of them were infected. Results of RT-PCR tests on 40 others would be known in a day or two,” said Mr. Behera.

The BDO said people in nearby Goda village and other two habitations had similar symptoms.

Based on the cry for help of Sarpanch of Gadaharishpur, the Jagatsinghpur district administration has declared three villages as containment zones till June 4.

Away from Jagatsinghpur, Barasingha village under Hindol block in Dhenkanal has a crisis that is deepening. From this single village, 96 inhabitants have tested positive.

‘Restrictions ignored’

“Villagers paid little heed to prescribed lockdown restrictions and participated in a community feast which led to explosion in COVID-19 cases. Since Barasingha village alone reported 96 cases, we have declared it as containment till June 4. If situation does not improve, the containment period could be extended,” said Bhumesh Chandra Behera, Dhenkanal District Magistrate. In Dhenkanal district, the test positivity report is alarmingly high at 36.82%.

In Bhangan village of Derabish block in Kendrapara district, 36 persons were infected forcing the administration to declare containment zone.

There has been improvement in the overall test positivity rate (TPR) of Odisha. Once hovering around 24%, the TPR dropped below 15% but the situation in rural areas remained a matter of concern.

Since March 15, which is considered as the cut-off date for the beginning of second wave of pandemic in Odisha, more than 4 lakh positive cases were added to tally. Totallly, 7,47,143 people have so far tested positive in the State.

Before cyclone Yaas struck, the Health and Family Welfare Department sources said the prevalence of COVID-19 infection was close to 57% in rural areas.

Apart from coastal region, in some of the less urbanised districts such as Boudh, Mayurbhanj and Rayagada districts, the high TPR is a matter of concern. While the TPR in Boudh is 25.09%, Mayurbhanj and Rayagada reported 19.26% and 14.60% respectively.

The situation may worsen further. About 7.10 lakh people were evacuated when Yaas hit the coast on May 25 and 26. Though the government had tried to separate COVID-19 infected and the others during evacuation, the fear of cyclone unsettled the plan.

The Ersama BDO said, “we had initially set a target to evacuate 1,000 people from low lying areas to safer places. With much persuasion, villagers shifted. However when Cyclone Yaas came closer to the coast on May 25, hundreds of people voluntarily rushed to different cyclone shelters throwing precautions to wind. By evening, the number of evacuated people rose to 7,000 and no distance was observed among people.” One panchayat extension officer and Gram Rozgar Sevak have now tested positive.

Western Odisha districts where positive cases were reported in large numbers saw a perceptible drop in cases. However, the situation in rural pockets of the coastal region appears to be bleak. In Balasore and Bhadrak districts, which were battered by Yaas, the TPR is alarmingly high at 33.71% and 36.60% respectively.

The Odisha government has already announced it would screen all those who were evacuated during the cyclone. Health experts apprehend the situation could go out of hands if door-to-door survey is not conducted on a war-footing.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 9:26:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/covid-19-cases-on-the-rise-in-rural-odisha-containment-zones-emerge/article34680849.ece

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