Covid-19 situation – an analysis of Surat Municipal Covid-19 updates: A puzzle unsloved

By Krishnakant Chauhan, Rohit Prajapati*

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Surat, has release its report titled “An analysis of Surat Municipal Covid-19 updates: A puzzle unsloved” on the Surat Covid-19 situation. The report comprehensively looks into the various data connected to the Covid-19 in Surat. The report refers to the daily updates provided by Surat Municipal Corporation through press release.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issued its first advisory regarding Covid-19 on February 4, 2020 to Chief Secretaries of all States/UTs. Almost 8 weeks after this advisory the Prime Minister called for Janata Curfew (Voluntary Curfew) on March 22, 2020 through his address on March 20, 2020. And later first lockdown of 21 days (3 weeks) was suddenly announced on 8pm of March 24, 2020 with a notice of just about 4 hours to start from 00.00hrs on March 25, 2020.

The Indian state response to the pandemic is adhoc and inconsistent. Despite India’s federal structure, Indian Government consulted Chief Ministers very late, and did not take them into confidence in time.

After the opening of the commercial and industrial activities in Unlock phase 1, the number of cases are rapidly increasing. While the Indian Government is saying that the increasing rate of recovery and falling death ratio is reassuring, but is non-committal on its efforts to arrest the spread.

India has crossed 4 lakh cases. The first lockdown was imposed to augment the health facilities and contain the spread of infection in the country and prepare to face a full blown crisis, if such time has to come. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is time and again instructing States to follow different models (Kerala, Bhilwara, Agra, Karnataka), this keeps changing from time to time.

Despite Covid-19 cases increasing rampantly in Gujarat, especially in Ahmedabad, the Covid-19 dashboard for Gujarat state – no longer works and the daily press briefing on Covid-19 situation by the state government was suspended long ago.

In the High Court of Gujarat in Suo-Moto PIL 42 of 2020, the Advocate General of Gujarat, Kamal Trivedi argued that if more testing would have been done, 70% of Ahmedabad would test Covid-19 positive. This starkly points that the announced strategy and implemented strategy of Gujarat government is both different and contradictory.

Covid-19 situation in Surat: Disaster of Management instead of Disaster Management

The report attempts to see the daily Covid-19 related announcement and press releases by the SMC in a perspective and consolidated manner over a period from April 16, 2020 till May 31, 2020. It also aims at providing feedback to the authorities and demanding required course correction.

Surat was one of the worst affected cities by the humanitarian distress caused to lakhs of migrant and non-migrant workers.

For Screening exercise the health department surveyors, comprising of untrained ANM workers or nursing college staff who do door to door survey are not given any equipment, not even a handheld thermal scanner. The door to door screening is dependent only on oral response from the head of the family or whoever was present at the home.

At the end of 2nd lockdown on May 3, 2020 there was a pendency of 1173 test results. Why a pendency for test results for more than 2 months?

Surat’s positive tests

From 1st positive case on March 16, 2020 till May 31, 2020 the positive cases in Surat stood at 1597 as given in the updates, 1662 as shown on the covid dashboar, 1624 as total of bifurcation provided and 1399 as provided in the Zone wise data by SMC. These figures from the same source, i.e. SMC do not match each other. Why such discrepancy or mismatch?

At the end of 2nd lockdown on May 3, 2020 there was a difference of 104 cases in the daily cumulative positive cases. By the end of 4th lockdown the difference increased to 118 cases that were not announced in the daily updates.

The curious case of Limbayat Zone

There was a difference of 78 cases during lockdown 1 & 2, 12 cases in lockdown 3 and 10 case during 4th lockdown. The huge difference of 100 cases is highest in Limbayat Zone and remains unexplained. Is the Limbayat zone being stigmatised with agenda?

Actionable recommendations

1. The state government should proactively publish all the important Covid-19 data with District/City details, on its website for public viewing and scrutiny.

2. The state government should set up independent panel of experts and persons of high integrity to investigate the glaring discrepancies and mismatch found in the Surat Covid-19 data.

3. The state authorities should conduct Covid-19 testing on a large scale to identify infection and treat.

4. SMC should continue to publish all the Covid-19 testing (Hospital, Contact, Community, Private & Government lab) and positive & negative case data with important bifurcation as was used in the update for April 16, 2020.

5. The state authorities to ensure proper hygeine facilities and protective equipments for front line Covid-19 warriors like medical/health staff, security personnel (police & hospital security).

6. The state authorities should provide additional Covid-19 remuneration for frontline medical & health personnels and hygeine/safai workers.

7. The state government should encourage independent researchers, students to take up analytical studies regarding Covid-19 strategy adopted by the government.

8. The state government ministers and officials should conduct regular press conference and address press queries in person.

*People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Click here for full report

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