[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, 3 May: Doctors have suggested that the Itanagar capital region (ICR) should be put under lockdown for at least two weeks to contain the spread of Covid-19.
A lockdown is the only way to control the spread of the virus as health facilities are extremely inadequate, said a public health expert, adding that in the second wave there is an exponential rise in the number of symptomatic cases requiring hospitalization, compared to the one last year.
The health department has sent samples for genome sequencing to the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in Kalyani (West Bengal) but doctors say that the early indications are not good, and that it appears to be the new strain, which is more infectious, as reported elsewhere in the country.
Doctors say that even if there are about 100 patients admitted with serious symptoms and requiring oxygen support in Itanagar, the health department would not be able to cope due to shortage of beds and human resources.
The dedicated Covid-19 hospital (DCH) in Chimpu, run by Tomo Riba Institute of Health & Medical Sciences (TRIHMS), has 70 beds, according to the latest Covid bulletin. Forty are with central oxygen connection, with 10 ICU beds. The number of beds occupied as on Monday is 30, with five ICU beds already occupied.
“If the number increases and the facility in Chimpu is not upgraded soon, TRIHMS will have to take in serious Covid-19 patients, which will affect the regular service,” said a doctor.
“Instead of waiting for central protocol on local lockdown, it should be done early as the state is not equipped with the required health facilities,” said another doctor.
On an average, a bed once occupied is free only after a week, and some take more than two weeks, said a doctor.
Another doctor said that the strain on the resources at the Chimpu DCH is already being felt, but that it is under control.
Work is underway for expansion of the DCH by adding 160 beds, out of which 45 will be ICU beds. Installation of an electrical substation for an oxygen generation plant with a capacity of 500 litres per minute is also underway.
Doctors, including public health experts, say that night curfew would not help as “the virus does not travel on its own.”
They also had a word of warning for the citizens, stating that Covid appropriate behaviour is not being maintained at all in the capital. “If a person is infected, it is likely that another 20 people will be infected, given our structure,” said a doctor.
They also said that not many are coming for testing, and that there are not enough resources for contact tracing.
One doctor said that the state should also consider testing intra-state travellers as the number is rising in Itanagar and many come to the capital for work. Testing is being done only for those coming from outside the state.
One doctor said that RAT, which is being used widely in the state, is not reliable as it has given false negative results in a number of cases. TRHIMS has one RT-PCR lab.
Altogether 6,680 cases have been reported in the ICR since the outbreak, and it currently has 440 active cases. (The doctors that this reporter spoke to sought anonymity.)