Coronavirus: Over a month, Covid hits more districts, most in Bihar and UP

May 23, 2020 12:01 AM

AS THE influx of migrant workers to their native places gains momentum and the national lockdown eases, there is a telling change in the geographical spread of Covid-19 positive cases over the one month since April 22 when the Health Ministry last released the national district-wise case load.

An analysis by The Indian Express of the key changes shows that of the roughly 300 districts with no cases on April 22, more than half (174) now have at least one case with an average of 23 cases in each district.An analysis by The Indian Express of the key changes shows that of the roughly 300 districts with no cases on April 22, more than half (174) now have at least one case with an average of 23 cases in each district.

By KARISHMA MEHROTRA

AS THE influx of migrant workers to their native places gains momentum and the national lockdown eases, there is a telling change in the geographical spread of Covid-19 positive cases over the one month since April 22 when the Health Ministry last released the national district-wise case load.

This has implications in Covid management across states and will also affect allocation of resources in fighting the pandemic.

An analysis by The Indian Express of the key changes shows that of the roughly 300 districts with no cases on April 22, more than half (174) now have at least one case with an average of 23 cases in each district. This means only one in six districts may now be Covid-free.

Also, of all green zone districts with no cases on April 22, districts in eastern India, which happen to be the key destinations for a substantial section of migrant workers, now make up the largest chunk reporting at least one case since April 22. For example, 23 zero-case districts in Bihar on April 22 have reported at least one case.

The number for the other states: UP (20 districts), MP (19), Odisha (13), Jharkhand (12) and Chhattisgarh (9).

* Unlike heavy case-load states, the spread in these migrant native states are not concentrated in a few districts but spread across a larger number of districts.

These patterns that have emerged during the last one month are expected to shape the trajectory of the spread across the country as a more liberal easing of Lockdown 4.0 plays out.

On April 22, about 200 districts had less than 10 cases – these now have an average of 40 cases. The next tier (150 districts with 10-50 case load on April 22) now have on average of 100 cases. Likewise, the 30 districts that had between 50 and 100 cases now have an average of 220 cases.

While these numbers are small compared with those in urban hotspot districts, the key trend experts are looking at is how the spread of the virus in eastern states is considerably more evenly distributed across the state than in the high case load states where most of the cases are still concentrated in a few urban centres straining their respective municipalities.

In April end, almost all states (except for Tamil Nadu) had almost 70 per cent of their cases in their top three districts. Now that number is 50 per cent of cases in their top three districts.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar do not exhibit such concentration in few cities. Indeed, they haven’t contained even 30 per cent of their cases in the top three districts. Half the cases in the two states are spread across their top nine districts.
The Indian Express reported last week that most Shramik trains (carrying an estimated 8 lakh migrants) ferried a large number of migrant workers from districts in red zones to green zones, and that returning migrants in Odisha and Bihar were showcasing high positivity rates.

Continuing the trend, other formerly Covid-free districts are now showing cases in Odisha (13 districts), Jharkhand (12), and Chhattisgarh (10). The only non-eastern state in the list of highest new Covid districts is Madhya Pradesh, with 20 districts with no cases earlier now having at least one.

In assessing the data using the Health Ministry’s new zoning parameters provided to states on Monday, Uttar Pradesh has both an unusually low testing rate for its population and a high positivity rate (positive samples out of total samples). Even though Bihar has a relatively low positivity rate, the rate has grown sharply and has the lowest testing per lakh population of all major states. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have high and rising positivity rates.

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