Kumbh amid COVID-19: Cases continue to pile, patients roaming in open

No ambulance to escort patients to isolation, cases of stampede being reported

By Vivek Mishra
Published: Wednesday 14 April 2021
COVID-19 cases continue to pile at Kumbh Mela. Photo: Midhun Vijayan

Devotees at the Kumbh Mela — the largest human gathering in India that started April 12, 2021— have been marching in gargantuan crowds, without masks as well as any fear of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

As India continued to report more than 0.1 million COVID-19 cases a day, all protocols seemed to have been tossed out of the window: Those who tested positive for the virus are now found strolling in the open.

On April 12, more than 3.1 million took the first Shahi Snan (royal bath) in the Ganga; on April 14, the same number is expected to reach the Ganga bath. Down to Earth visited Haridwar and reviewed the situation, which continues to be frightening.

The Mela Hospital at Haridwar has been converted into a COVID-19 dedicated hospital. It has 25 beds, where 22 patients are admitted.

Hundreds of patients have been referred to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rishikesh from there. DTE met a young man who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 there. He had respiratory problems.

The doctor told him to shift to an isolation centre nearby. When we followed the patient, we found that he went to the hotel on his two-wheeler through a crowded area.

There was no ambulance to escort him to the centre; there was no adherence to social distancing norms either.

At the same time, an RT-PCR test laboratory is being built at a year-old hospital. The work there has not been completed so far, as a result of which the number of beds has come down.

As critical cases are diverted to AIIMS, the latter is overburdened with patient load.

Temporary facilities with pandals of akharas have been built on the Bairagi Camp. Their number is in the hundreds. More than 10,000 people were seen walking in the pandals.

At least 50 beds have been set up by AIIMS Rishikesh at this camp. Cases continue to surge at the Corona Investigation Centre.

A worker there claimed that 200-250 antigen tests were being conducted on a daily basis. A total of 250 tests were conducted at Bairagi Camp 11 April, of whom six tested positive.

On April 12, 208 investigations were conducted, of which 17 were positive. By noon on April 13, 117 people were screened; six tested positive for the virus.

Senior doctor Vishal Patil said the number of general patients has also been on the rise. These include patients getting treated for diarrhoea. As many as 250 patients were being treated daily, with most being asked to isolate.

Several sadhus, despite testing positive for the virus, have refused to be isolated.

Chief Medical Officer SK Jha told DTE that a sadhu tried to flee isolation centre, but was later apprehended.

Growing graph in Kumbhanagri:

A total of 205 COVID-19 cases were reported of 30,638 investigations

  • Of 22,610 antigen tests conducted, 54 tested positive
  • Among 8,028 RT-PCR tests, 151 found positive  

55,430 investigations conducted on April 11, out of which 369 found infected

  • 49,929 antigens tested conducted, 98 found to be infected
  • 5,501 RT-PCR investigations conducted, 271 found infected

66,203 investigations conducted on April 12, 387 tested positive

  • 61,810 antigen tests carried out; 171 tested positive for the virus
  • 4,393 RT-PCR tests conducted; 215 tested positive

Royal bath on 14 April, situation sensitive

Jha told DTE that they were “ready for a spike in cases”.

He said: “We are carrying out more antigen testing because those who come here do so with negative COVID-19 reports. If the antigen is found positive in random testing, then we do RT-PCR for it.”

He added that six containment zones have been formed in Haridwar. The team does random investigations at 73 sites.

“We have 10,000 beds. More positive cases are being found at border areas,” Jha said.

Kumbh Mela inspector general Sanjay Gunjyal said stampede was reported at several places. “In such a situation, if social distancing and mask rules are followed at the ghats, a stampede situation will occur. These rules are, therefore,  not being followed.”

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