Bhubaneswar: As many as 18 samples have tested positive for Coronavirus in Odisha in the largest single-day addition so far, taking the total number of infected people in the coastal state to 39 and ringing alarm bells among the authorities and the people alike.
A little over an hour after a 48-hour total shutdown of three urban centres in Odisha was lifted on Sunday evening, the state health department announced that 16 more samples had tested positive for Coronavirus.
“16 more COVID positive cases confirmed in Bhubaneswar,” said the state health department in a tweet minutes after the people of Odisha had finished lighting candles in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to the nation to show solidarity and resolve in the fight against the pandemic.
Earlier in the day, two people had been tested positive for Coronavirus in the state capital Bhubaneswar – a 70-year-old who had returned from Australia in the last week of March and a 29-year-old man.
Another 29-year-old man in Kalahandi district in western Odisha was tested positive the previous night. This man had returned from Baharin a few days ago and was asymptomatic.
With the first two COVID-19 patients in the state, both residents of Bhubaneswar, having recovered and discharged from hospitals two days ago, the state now has 30 active patients.
State chief secretary Asit Tripathy had said earlier on Sunday that there was no indication yet of a community transmission of Coronavirus in the state, but Sunday evening’s new findings have prompted health department officials to think afresh.
Of the 18 new cases identified on Sunday, about 15 belong to Bomikhal area in Bhubaneswar. This is the site in the state capital from where three people had been tested positive a day ago.
“Identification of such a large number of Coronavirus positive people in Bhubaneswar and, that, too, in a single location is worrying. But due to the ongoing lockdown and the just-concluded 48-hour shutdown in three major towns, including Bhubaneswar, there is little possibility of community transmission having started yet,” said Dr Santosh Mishra, a medical expert watching the state’s fight to arrest the march of the pandemic.
The state government has sealed off Bomikhal as part of its cluster containment exercise and is conducting a house to house survey. Health department officials are trying to isolate all suspects and their contacts and bringing them for tests.
Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik-led BJD government, which has already assembled medical facilities with 1,000 beds exclusively for COVID-19 patients, has urged the state’s people not to panic and to stay indoors.