In Andhra Pradesh, COVID-19 positive cases have been reported in 11 out of total 13 districts indicating that the virus is spreading in both urban and rural areas. As agriculture and allied activities which are at a standstill due to the lockdown are about to begin this week, observers are cautioning the government to prioritise COVID-19 containment efforts as the state lacks health infrastructure over other political priorities.
The state reported its first case on March 12 in Nellore district when a youth who returned from Italy tested positive. Since then, in a span of 30 days, a total of 432 COVID-19 positive cases have been reported in the state as of Monday morning. So far, while seven people died of the virus, 11 have recovered or discharged.
On the extension of lockdown, on Saturday, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the state government has identified 133 containment clusters or red zones and appealed that the lockdown could be eased off in remaining parts of the state. Furthermore, the state government has also announced that the village volunteers and ASHA workers have surveyed across regions and identified 45,000 people who are at the risk of the virus.
However, the data being released by the state officials doesn’t seem realistic, opines Babu Rao, state secretariat member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “While it is clear that the coronavirus cases are spreading across rural and urban areas across the state, no data has been put out on cases except those related to foreign returnees and Delhi (Nizamuddin’s Markaz),” he told NewsClick. Commending the survey being done by the village volunteers and ASHA workers, he said that the government must ensure the protection and safety of the health volunteers who are at the risk of getting affected by the virus.
“While local reports suggest that the state has recorded numerous isolated COVID-19 cases at different regions, it is not clear whether the state has entered community transmission stage as the government is secretive over the numbers,” he added.
As of April 12, while 1.95 lakh tests have been conducted across the country, Andhra Pradesh has tested only 6,958. Reportedly, the state has ordered some 5 lakh testing kits and is going to intensify the testing speed from this week at the 49 hospitals in the state.
Recent moves by the state government indicate its political priorities over containment of the virus said Babu Rao. “For instance, the YSRCP government promulgated an ordinance last week changing the term of state election commissioner from five years to three years and abruptly removed N Ramesh Kumar from the position. Similarly, the ruling party is going ahead with its stance on Amaravati despite opposition. While the state revenue department was handling quarantining arrangements during this crisis, they are now asked to deal with other land related issues,” he said.