COVID-19 third wave: Returning workers may have led to Jharkhand spike

COVID-19 situation dire in Jharkhand, with healthcare workers, rural residents infected; state has no wherewithal for genome sequencing

By Anand Dutt
Published: Thursday 13 January 2022
A policeman being tested for COVID-19 in Jharkhand. Photo: Anand Dutt
A policeman being tested for COVID-19 in Jharkhand. Photo: Anand Dutt A policeman being tested for COVID-19 in Jharkhand. Photo: Anand Dutt

Migrant workers returning to Jharkhand for the Christmas and year-end holidays could have caused cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to spike, leading to the third wave, according to sources.

The state currently has the highest reproductive value (R-value) at 5. This means that one infected person can infect five others. This is much higher than Bihar (4.55), Delhi (4.35), Uttar Pradesh (3.32), Gujarat (3.29), Haryana (3.28) and Rajasthan (3.24).

The positivity rate in five districts of the state is over 10 per cent. These are:

  • Latehar (16.02%)
  • Ranchi (14.84%)
  • Ramgarh (12.00%)
  • Koderma (10.83%)
  • Deoghar (10.50%)

Positivity rate refers to the percentage of all COVID-19 tests that come back positive.

The situation is especially bad in the state’s hospitals and rural areas. Some 150 healthcare workers at the biggest hospital in the state, Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi, are down with COVID-19.

Some 50 of them are doctors. RIMS receives 1,800-2,000 patients daily.

Waseem Akhtar, a journalist based in Mahuadanr, one of the two subdivisions of Latehar district, said migrant workers had returned to Jharkhand in large numbers around Christmas.

They had come from Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala, Odisha and Tamil Nadu. Akhtar said there was a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases after the authorities started testing the returning workers.

Rural areas began reporting a spike in cases after the arrival of the workers.

Uttam Kumar, a technician at a COVID-19 laboratory in Mahuadanr subdivision, said many cases initially reported from Rengai and Ambuatoli villages, were asymptomatic at first.

Such patients were tested again later after they developed cough and cold. Vaccinated village residents also tested positive.

Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, currently has 11,165 cases. Ramgarh has 1,367 cases, while Bokaro has 1,337 cases.

There were 30,986 active cases in the state January 12, 2022. Some 81,608 tests were conducted January 12 of which, 4,753 turned out to be positive.

Some 15 children in the state are current down with COVID-19. A total of 139 children had been affected in the second wave of COVID-19 last year.

No genome sequencing

The infectious omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has not yet been detected in Jharkhand. Reason? The state does not have proper facilities to conduct genome sequencing.

Samples are sent to Odisha, since Jharkhand does not have a genome sequencing laboratory, the state’s health minister, Banna Gupta had told reporters January 3. The results usually land after a month of the samples being sent.

The state has been trying to purchase a genome-sequencing machine since April last year. The state would get such a machine till the second week of February, Gupta said.

Praveen Karan, an official of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), told this reporter that Jharkahnd currently has 1,151 COVID-19 facilities. These include 940 COVID-19 care wards and 174 oxygen wards. There are 73 intensive care units

The authorities have advised those with mild symptoms to recuperate in home isolation. Ramesh Gholap, the director of NRHM, said 27,851 patients were currently in home isolation in Jharkhand. They were being given medical kits.

However, patients this reporter spoke to said no kits had been delivered to them.

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