C’garh, Odisha’s tribal ar­eas re­port fewer cases

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTSPOTLIGH­T - Ritesh Mishra and De­babrata Mo­hanty let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

From the fig­ures of Odisha and Chhattisga­rh govts, it is clear that test­ing has been low in the tribal ar­eas, and this is a rea­son for neg­li­gi­ble num­ber of Covid cases there.

T JA­COB JOHN, for­mer head of Virol­ogy De­part­ment, CMC, Vel­lore

RAIPUR/BHUBANESWA­R: Chhattisga­rh and Odisha’s re­mote trib­al­dom­i­nated dis­tricts have re­ported fewer cases of the coro­n­avirus dis­ease (Covid-19) be­cause of lesser con­tact with the out­side world and lower test­ing rates com­pared to other re­gions, mul­ti­ple of­fi­cials said.

No Covid-19 case has been de­tected in Chhattisga­rh’s south­ern tribal Sukma, Bi­japur and Naryan­pur dis­tricts even as the state re­ported its first in­fec­tion in March. Most cases in the state have been re­ported from the north­ern non-tribal north­ern dis­tricts of Korba, Bi­laspur, Baloda Bazar, Raipur and Mun­geli.

Ex­perts said this may also have to do with fewer tests in tribal ar­eas. Only 1,158 peo­ple have been tested for Covid-19 in Bi­japur, 777 in Naryan­pur and 1749 in Sukma, ac­cord­ing to the state gov­ern­ment data. In com­par­i­son, 9,139 tests have been con­ducted in Korba, which has re­ported 254 Covid-19 cases. As many as 167 peo­ple have been found to be in­fected in Bi­laspur, where 9,378 peo­ple have been tested. The max­i­mum tests have been con­ducted in the state cap­i­tal Raipur (11,993) and 151 cases have been re­ported.

Chhattisga­rh, where trib­als ac­count for 31% (sec­ond high­est af­ter Jhark­hand) of the pop­u­la­tion, has re­ported 1,946 cases and nine deaths un­til Thurs­day. The state has 735 ac­tive cases.

State health sec­re­tary Ni­harika Barik Singh said mi­grants, about 3.5 lakh, who have re­turned to the state ac­count for the most cases de­tected in the state. “Parts [of the state] which have seen a large in­flux of in­ter­state trav­ellers have shown a spike in the cases,” said Singh.

She said the south­ern trib­al­dom­i­nated dis­tricts do not have many peo­ple with travel his­tory. Singh said fewer num­ber of tests have been con­ducted in the south­ern dis­tricts be­cause [the ICMR] test­ing guide­lines al­low only those with Covid-19 symp­toms to un­dergo tests.

Chhattisga­rh health min­is­ter TS Singhdeo said most of the mi­grant work­ers have re­turned to the north­ern re­gion from worst-hit ar­eas like Ma­ha­rash­tra, Delhi, and Ut­tar Pradesh. He said many of them could not re­turn im­me­di­ately be­cause of the lock­down. “And by the time Shramik Ex­press [spe­cial] trains were started from May 1, they were in­fected,” he said

Neigh­bour­ing Odisha, where trib­als ac­count for about 22% of the pop­u­la­tion, has re­ported 5,160 Covid-19 cases un­til June 20 mid­night from all 30 dis­tricts. The state’s tribal-dom­i­nated dis­tricts have re­ported fewer cases com­pared to non-tribal dis­tricts. Tribal dom­i­nated Malka­n­giri district has only 53 cases on June 16 as com­pared to 440 in Khurda. Sim­i­larly, Ko­ra­put, a district of trib­als, has 24 cases, as against 893 in Gan­jam, a district of mi­grant work­ers.

Mi­grant work­ers in quar­an­tine cen­tres, health work­ers and para­mil­i­tary force per­son­nel have mostly tested pos­i­tive in tribal-dom­i­nated Ko­ra­put and Nabarang­pur dis­tricts.

“Among the in­fected peo­ple in [Ko­ra­put] district, there are trib­als with travel his­tory to other states. But there have been no cases of lo­cal trans­mis­sion, or com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion in our tribal pock­ets,” said district col­lec­tor Mad­husu­dan Mishra.

Other tribal-dom­i­nated dis­tricts of Balan­gir, Sun­dar­garh and Mayurb­hanj have re­ported 150, 146 and 129 cases.

An Odisha health de­part­ment of­fi­cial said test­ing in the trib­al­dom­i­nated dis­tricts is lower com­pared to other ar­eas. In the tribal dis­tricts such as Malka­n­giri, state gov­ern­ment has con­ducted 4,542 tests as com­pared to 22,000 in Gan­jam district, which has max­i­mum cases. Sim­i­larly, in Nabrang­pur district, 4,000 peo­ple have been tested as com­pared to 16,500 in Khurda.

“From the fig­ures of Odisha and Chhattisga­rh gov­ern­ments, it is clear that test­ing has been low in the tribal ar­eas, and this is a rea­son for neg­li­gi­ble num­ber of Covid cases there. How­ever, peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas are more iso­lated than in more con­gested ur­ban ar­eas...,” said T Ja­cob John, for­mer head of Virol­ogy De­part­ment at Chris­tian Med­i­cal Col­lege, Vel­lore..

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