Life is limping back to normal in most parts of Odisha with the gradual decline in the number of fresh COVID-19 cases in the worst-hit pockets. The decline started from September 26. The previous day, 4,356 cases had been reported – the highest daily number. The decline has continued and on October 13 the number of new cases was 2,275.
Of the total 2,56,937 cases in the State, 2,30,192 patients had recovered and 25,635 were under treatment on October 13. The death toll increased to 1,110, with 1,057 succumbing to COVID-19 and 53 others dying of other ailments. The State had tested 38,36,825 samples.
The decline in cases was first witnessed in Ganjam district, where the administration took a series of measures to fight the pandemic apart from ensuring institutional quarantine for returning migrant workers. The migration-prone district, which recorded its first case on May 4, reported the highest daily caseload of 732 new cases on July 24. The number then started declining steadily. The district reported only 36 new cases on October 13.
The situation was similar in Khordha district, where the capital city of Bhubaneswar is located, and in neighbouring Cuttack and Puri districts. Khordha, which reported the single day highest of 902 cases on September 26, reported 364 cases on October 13.
A senior government official involved in the management of the pandemic said: “There is a decreasing trend in the daily COVID-19 positive cases in Odisha since the beginning of October. The positivity rate has also been consistently decreasing and it is expected to fall further.” The positivity rate (10-day average) has come down from 8.53 per cent to 6.32 per cent. Similarly, the daily cases (10-day average) have reduced from 4,142 to 2,833, he said.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik recently spoke to some doctors who are treating COVID-19 patients. He appreciated their dedication and service which pushed up Odisha’s recovery rate. He has promised assistance from the government for families of “COVID warriors” who have died fighting this battle.
Although lockdown restrictions are being lifted in phases, schools will remain closed until October 31. The government, however, started the process of opening up temples for worshippers ahead of Durga Puja. The move followed demands by priests of various temples and an Orissa High Court order. The High Court had asked the government to open the temples in a graded manner after assessing the situation.
Ahead of the Puja season, the Chief Minister urged people to be vigilant and abide strictly by COVID-19 protocol. He suggested effective testing, generation of testing reports, sharing of information and steps to provide medical care to patients on the basis of feedback collected from people under the Mo Sarkar initiative.
People’s reactions to the pandemic continue to remain mixed since COVID-19 seems to be affecting people in different ways. There were reports of many infected persons with moderate illness staying in home isolation and recovering without hospitalisation. But in some cases, infected people died before getting their tests done, which gave rise to allegations of undercounting of COVID-19 deaths.
Most people obey the rules and restrictions that have been imposed to contain the pandemic, especially in urban areas that are reporting maximum cases. On a visit to places far from Bhubaneswar, one found people engaged in restoring their livelihoods. The use of masks has almost disappeared in villages where residents keep an eye on anyone coming in from outside. Few cases have been detected in interior areas during the past few weeks.
The government campaign to create awareness about avoiding the coronavirus is ongoing and it is using social media platforms to deal with complaints from people. Public walls in the capital city have been painted with messages to promote the use of masks and social distancing.
Meanwhile, all government departments have resumed full-fledged functioning by adhering to COVID-19 protocol. A brief session of the State Assembly was also held with restrictions in place.
Thousands of migrant workers have already left for their places of work in other States and the administration is hopeful that the number of COVID-19 cases will decline further in the coming weeks. Things are slowly getting back to normal.
Mission of inclusiveness and constructive work
On October 13, the Chief Minister inaugurated virtually the “Sujal – Drink from Tap Mission” to provide quality drinking water in the cities, initially in Bhubaneswar and Puri and eventually in other districts too. The move follows Patnaik’s inauguration in late September of a slum upgradation and delisting initiative under his government’s Jaga Mission, aimed at transforming quality of life in slums. “While Odisha is putting up a brave fight against COVID-19, I hope this upgradation initiative will enhance the collective resilience of slum dwellers by improving their lives and livelihoods,” he said while inaugurating the programme. The Jaga Mission, launched some three years ago to secure for slum dwellers across the State the right to the land they live on, has already helped large sections of underprivileged people.
Taking note of the growing unrest among farmers, Patnaik has announced that a committee of legislators (members of the Legislative Assembly and of Parliament) and farmer leaders will be formed to study the provisions of the farm Bills that were recently passed in Parliament.