Maharashtra: Experts note slight rise in Covid cases, advise ‘double masking’

After Kerala, Maharashtra is on the second spot with the highest number of Covid-19 cases and large cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are in focus with a high number of cases.

WE CANNOT let our guard down and use “Covid fatigue” as an excuse to not wear masks, warned state Covid-19 task force member Dr Shashank Joshi. “In fact, like in the US, there is a need to start double masking,” he said.

After Kerala, Maharashtra is on the second spot with the highest number of Covid-19 cases and large cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are in focus with high number of cases. According to Dr Joshi, the proportion of cases may be less, but this is not something to cheer.

On Sunday, the state reported 4,092 fresh positive cases while on Monday, as per state health officials, 3,365 fresh cases were reported. The state also recorded 23 deaths on the day. The total number of reported cases now stands at 20,67,643. At present, 1.74 lakh people are in home quarantine.

State surveillance officer Dr Pradeep Awate said the recovery rate in the state was 95.7 per cent, and case fatality rate was 2.49 per cent.

According to data, 1,141 cases were reported in Mumbai circle, 750 in Pune circle, 657 in Nagpur circle till February 14. Kolhapur and Aurangabad circles have reported 58 and 136 so far, but there is a clear trend of rising numbers in places like Amravati, Yavatmal and Nagpur.

“Very clearly there is a rising trend, but it is not a steep slope going up; we are cautious and concerned and the Centre should focus on Kerala and Maharashtra and vaccinate co-morbid population as early as possible. There is a lot of heterogenicity in India and focus on those places where numbers are likely to go up in a faster way. Priority needs to be given to vaccination by the Centre so that lives are not lost,” Dr Joshi said.

State health officials attributed the rise in cases – more than 4,000 after a span of 39 days – to cold weather prevailing over the past few days, gatherings for marriages and other functions and gram panchayat elections held a month ago.

“We need to step up awareness on Covid-appropriate behaviour and remain focused on identifying hotspots, increasing testing and surveillance,” said Dr Awate, who is on a field visit to some districts where cases are rising.

“There has been a rising trend of cases in Nagpur, Amravati and Yavatmal. With the phase-wise unlocking, there has been an increase in Covid-19 cases,” Dr Awate said.

Dr Awate further said there could be various factors for the rise, including the weather pattern. “The cold weather has risen and, three to four weeks ago, there were gram panchayat elections across 14,000 villages where people stepped out for campaigning. Family functions have increased in a big way with marriages seeing a large number of guests and all this may have resulted in a slight increase.”

Among the 14 districts that show a higher positivity rate are Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Mumbai and while a team of experts from National Centre for Disease Control has recommended more testing, doctors in Pune also spoke about how people were lowering their guard.

“This is a yellow warning signal and should not become red,” Dr Joshi said, adding that there was a need to test, trace and isolate in a more determined manner from taking up information education and counselling sessions on a campaign mode for masking and Covid-appropriate behaviour.

Dr Joshi also said there was a large migrant population in various clusters, and in some districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada, it was being observed that in rural India there was a feeling that Covid-19 had disappeared.

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Experts have also stressed on the need to take up genomic surveillance and the need to monitor whether there is a new mutant strain.

Dr Ashish Bharati, chief medical officer, PMC, said there was overcrowding at places and people needed to understand that masks were for their safety. At Ruby Hall Clinic, medical superintendent Dr Avdut Bodamwad said they had noted a slight increase in the last four to five days. At Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital, there are some 80 to 90 Covid patients while Jehangir hospital too has seen a rise in the number of patients.

“Overall, hospital admissions are not that high. However, the number of diagnosed cases is rising and indicates that despite vaccination, precautions need to be taken,” said hospital authorities.

Dr Dhananay Kelkar, medical director of Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital, said slowly everything had opened up. “But the slowly increasing numbers is a warning to be more careful rather than face a lockdown. People need to understand from past experience and, while this is not a second wave, there is a need to exercise control,” Dr Kelkar said.

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