With 336 new cases reported in a 24-hour period, and as many as 50 districts recording less than 20 cases, Madhya Pradesh was not doing too badly on the Covid-19 front on March 1. The state at the time had 2,901 active cases with a mere 2.6 % positivity rate. Indore and Bhopal had 1,024 and 564 of these cases. In less than a couple of months, however, the pandemic has constricted the central Indian state, which is grappling with an acute shortage of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and life-saving drugs including remdesivir shots.
Madhya Pradesh recorded 12,918 fresh daily cases on Saturday with the number of active cases soaring to 89,363. The total number of deaths so far since March 2020 is 5,041.
Gwalior has joined Bhopal and Indore among cities that have 1,000-plus daily cases after reporting 1,152 fresh cases. Indore had 1,813 and Bhopal 1,776. These are among cities that are under Covid curfew till April 30. The restrictions are most likely to be extended as the Betul and Ashoknagar districts were put under lockdown till May 3 on Saturday.
Jabalpur too isn’t far behind with 863 fresh cases in the 24-hour period. These four major cities were responsible for a large chunk of cases over the past several weeks. But the trend appears to be changing.
In the past month or so, the contribution of these four cities in the total cases of the state has shrunk to 46% from 65%. In the same period, the share of smaller towns and rural parts has gone up to 54% from 35%. As on March 1, as many as 49 cities had 100 or fewer active cases, but presently Khandwa is the lone district that has less than 200 active cases (195).
A total of 28 districts have 1,000 or more active cases right now.
Several hospitals are refusing admission to Covid-19 patients, maintaining that there is a resource crunch, sources say. An oxygen supply shortage has been the biggest challenge as districts like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Gwalior, Ratlam, Ujjain, Khargone, Sagar and Shahdol have reported deaths allegedly linked to this. Officials say the administration is working round the clock to ensure the demands are met.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Friday said that soon Madhya Pradesh will be self-reliant in terms of oxygen supplies, maintaining that the Centre recently agreed to provide 643 metric tonnes of oxygen daily to the state.
Work on four oxygen plants has started out of the eight sanctioned by the Centre while similar facilities are proposed in 37 districts with state funding. The Madhya Pradesh government has sourced 3,000 oxygen concentrators. The district administration in Bhopal on Saturday formed an oxygen task force comprising eight senior officers. The state government said the oxygen supply was over 455 metric tonnes on Friday.
The air force too has come to the aid of the state government: a C-17 aircraft of the IAF flew to Jamnagar in Gujarat on Friday to bring oxygen-filled cylinders. Oxygen tankers are also regularly coming to MP from neighbouring states. The state plane and helicopters too have been engaged in ferrying remdesivir doses to various districts.
The number of Covid-19 tests has also gone up. On Thursday, Madhya Pradesh carried out 57,176 tests, and 55,879 on Friday. Also, mobile teams have been formed in districts to collect samples.
A total of 144 Covid-care centres are working in 52 districts with 8,472 normal beds and 415 oxygen beds. There were 20,159 such beds available in the state on April 1; the number had gone up to 48,371 by April 23.
Hit by the second wave of Covid-19 like most parts of India, Madhya Pradesh has bolstered the vaccination drive and by April 23, 77.92 lakh frontline workers, senior citizens and people above 45 years of age had been inoculated. The state government plans to vaccinate 3.22 crore locals from May 1 when all those above the age of 18 in the country become eligible for the shots.
Officials are, however, upbeat about the fact that of the 4,85,703 Covid-19 patients in the state since March 2020, a total of 3,91,299 have recovered. Also, in marginal relief, while the state on Friday recorded 13,590 cases in a day, the number dropped to 12,918 on Saturday. The positivity rate which was 23.7 on Friday had reduced to 23.1% on Saturday.
State health minister Dr Prabhuram Chaudhary said it was heartening that over 34,000 people had recovered from the virus in the past four days and around 99% haven’t contracted the infection after getting a second dose of vaccine. “It’s also satisfying that daily cases have stabilised around the 12,000-13,000 mark in the past three-four days," said the minister.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently rapped the Centre and state over the dismal situation in Madhya Pradesh and issued a 19-point guideline. The HC ordered one-hour delivery of remdesivir injections, more testing, filling up of vacant posts in the health machinery, making available oxygen to hospitals, etc, and sought an action-taken report from the Shivraj Chouhan government by May 10.