Coronavirus: How Pune became the city with highest number of COVID-19 cases

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September 8, 2020 1:55 PM

The exponential rise in Pune goes against the grain, as the city has a substantially lower population than some of India’s most densely populated cities like Delhi and Mumbai and also it does not host a large number of migrants, unlike other cities.

A civic officer overseeing the efforts against Covid-19 told The Indian Express that the scaled-up testing has led to a spurt in the confirmed Coronavirus cases.A civic officer overseeing the efforts against Covid-19 told The Indian Express that the scaled-up testing has led to a spurt in the confirmed Coronavirus cases.

The total number of Coronavirus cases in Pune has crossed the 2-lakh mark, taking the city’s tally not only above that of Delhi (1.93 lakh) and Mumbai (1.57 lakh) but also most of the states, as only five-worst affected states have more Covid-19 cases than Pune, The Indian Express reported.

Why are so many cases being reported from Pune?
The exponential rise in Pune goes against the grain, as the city has a substantially lower population than some of India’s most densely populated cities like Delhi and Mumbai and also it does not host a large number of migrants, unlike other cities. The city also does not have a large inflow of international passengers, which caused the initial spurt of cases in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. However, the reason that has been cited for the anomalous behaviour of the city in terms of the high number of Coronavirus cases is the large number of tests that are being conducted in the city. The city is currently doing about 13,000-14,000 tests every day which is the highest in the state. While the number of tests currently being conducted in the city is higher than any other city in the state, including Mumbai, the testing is substantially less than Delhi.

A civic officer overseeing the efforts against Covid-19 told The Indian Express that the scaled-up testing has led to a spurt in the confirmed Coronavirus cases. The officer also said that the higher number of cases would also help the administration identify and isolate a large number of people and also in reducing the mortality rate.

Experts have also said that the Covid-19 data reported from the city has been much more transparent than its many counterparts. Dibyendu Nandi, who is a professor at IISER Kolkata and working with the Punem administration in data analysis told The Indian Express that the city was reporting cleaner data than many other cities. He also said that the actual situation of the city is being reflected in the data which could not be true for many other cities.

Experts have flagged other reasons for the high number of confirmed cases in the city. In the recent serological survey conducted in the city, some pockets of Pune reported the prevalence rate of Coronavirus at more than 50-60 per cent of the population. Similar sero surveys in Delhi and Mumbai showed the prevalence rate of Covid-19 at about 29% and 40%, respectively. The sero survey indicated that a large population of the city of Pune has already been infected with Coronavirus and that’s why more tests are reporting confirmed cases. Pune was also one of the cities in the country which recorded the initial cases of Coronavirus which might explain the widespread of the disease in a large number of people.

Lax isolation measures: Since the very first case of Coronavirus came to light in the city on March 9, Pune trailed closely behind as two of the worst affected cities in the state. According to The Indian Express report, several experts have pointed out that the isolation measures and containment steps adapted in Mumbai were far stricter than those taken in Pune.

Highlighting the close proximity of the city with the neighbouring rural areas, Dr. Subhash Salunke, chairman of the state technical committee on the prevention of communicable diseases told The Indian Express that contact tracing becomes difficult when people from rural areas are making several trips to the city and going back. He also pointed out that other cities like Mumbai and Delhi have hardly any linkages with the countryside. The authorities in Mumbai, wary of a spurt in Coronavirus cases, quickly got in action and built several makeshift Covid-19 hospitals in the month of May and June. On the other hand, such makeshift hospitals were built as late as August in Pune.

Mahesh Zagade, former Pune Municipal Commissioner told The Indian Express that there has been some amount of administrative mismanagement in the city. He also said that unlike handling the Covid-19 infection like a preventive disease, the city administration was handling the infection like a curative disease.

Way ahead
Many experts are hoping that the situation in Pune is going to immensely improve in the coming days. L S Shashidhara, a professor at IISER Pune and Ashoka University in Haryana told The Indian Express that the daily growth in the number of cases is sliding and by the end of this month there will be a drop in the number of cases as well.

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