Ujjain: Best known as the holy city which hosts gigantic Kumbha Melas, Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh recorded a surge of over 21% in the mortality rate for coronavirus infections on Tuesday, among the highest mortality rates in districts across India.
The city confirmed its first virus case on March 22 after resident Rabiya Bi (65) tested positive and was later shifted to Indore, around 60km from here. Five of her family members also tested positive but later recovered.
With no testing facility, positive cases stood at 15 and five deaths were reported on April 8 when large numbers of samples were stuck in Bhopal. However, the cases of infection skyrocketed in subsequent days when samples were cleared from Bhopal and Ahmedabad and Gujarat.
From 27 infection cases on April 20, the number of positives surged to 195 in the last 15 days in the city, a trend attributed to the clearing of backlog samples by the authorities.
The testing of samples began at the RD Gardi Medical College, the notified Covid-19 facility in Ujjain, on April 30. The centre presently has the testing capacity of 50 samples a day.
However, the medical college has been amid controversies involving lack of efficiency and negligence. On April 4, a critical female patient, Laxmi Chauhan (55) who was referred to Covid-19 facility by Madhav Nagar hospital, died due to negligence after the staff was unable to unlock the door into the ICU ward.
Chauhan tested positive for Covid-19 posthumously.
The medical college has been repeatedly accused of severe negligence on the part of health workers, including the case of BJP corporator Muzaffar Hussain who died of the virus infection last Sunday. Before his death, he had uploaded a video levelling serious lack of preventive measures and care from the institution.
On Wednesday, Ujjain Chief Medical and Health Officer Dr Anusuiya Gawli was removed from the position and was replaced Dr ML Malviya. Civil surgeon Dr PN Verma was also replaced with Dr Raju Najariya.
The changes in appointed were made days after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan transferred collector Shashank Mishra and replaced him with Indore municipal commissioner Ashish Singh. The official had served Ujjain as municipal commissioner during Simhastha 2016.
To add, CM Chouhan had warned Ujjain collector over lax in administrative practices at least twice, said sources.
Singh after assuming office on Tuesday was quick to spell out his priorities. “Speedy detection of infection cases and their treatment is my priority. The containment zones would be implemented with full force,” claimed Singh.
The newly appointed collector who was previously posted in Indore hotspot is likely to bring in his experience of fighting the fatal virus.
The removal of the collector also affirms allegations that administrative negligence was to be blamed for massive infection in the temple town.
Ujjain required massive surveys and screening which wasn’t there till now and played a big role in the worsening of the situation here, said Amulya Nidhi, a senior health activist from Indore. He also noted that the lack of local testing played a part in the rise of cases.
Locals claim the administration wasn’t vigilant enough since the first case was detected.
However, the locals claim that the administration did not ascertain the reason behind Rabiya’s infection and failed to screen those others who were part of the anti-CAA protest. The demonstrations had perhaps led to an increase of cases in dense Muslim areas, said a social worker from the city.
Apart from the rise in cases, the high mortality rate has worried authorities. By Wednesday, out of 195 infections registered, 40 patients have died which accounts for 21.51% mortality rate, perhaps one of the highest in Indian districts.
Late admission of patients and co-morbidity are some of the reasons behind such a high death rate, Dr HP Sonaniya, the nodal isolation officer of the city told News18 on the phone. “Most of the patients were above 60 years of age and suffered from ailments including diabetes, blood pressure, heart issues and asthma,” he said.
Sonaniya said that the first infected patient only visited anti-CAA protest site as she had joint pain, so it was assumed that her family members must have visited a Covid-19 infected area. The infection perhaps kept spreading slowly but steadily in areas where these persons lived, said Dr Sonaniya.
He added that the administration is conducting surveys and have amplified screening.
State Health Minister Narottam Mishra on Tuesday said that both Bhopal and Indore faced "a slight surge" in cases but normalised afterwards. The surge of cases Ujjain would likely follow a similar pattern in the next two-three days, he said.
On Mishra’s request, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan ordered AIIMS Bhopal to send a team of experts to Ujjain on Monday. The team reached Ujjain on Tuesday and visited RD Gardi Medical College, Madhav Nagar hospital, several affected areas and had a meeting with the district collector.