Eight of the ten districts with the highest active cases in the country are from Maharashtra, the Union health ministry said on Thursday, calling the surge a “tipping point”. Pune, Nagpur, Thane and Mumbai are the top four.
“We are very worried about Maharashtra. Across several districts in Maharashtra there is a rise. A strict lockdown has been imposed in Nagpur. We are reaching a situation where those approaches are being brought back,” said Niti Aayog member Dr V K Paul, adding that the surge shows the virus cannot be taken for granted. “It can come up unexpectedly, with dynamics we don’t know of.”
Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in the country, on Thursday reported 13,659 daily coronavirus cases, which is 60 percent of the country’s single-day total.
The Union Health Ministry on Thursday said eight of the 10 cities with the highest number of active cases belong to Maharashtra. They are – Pune, Nagpur, Thane, Mumbai, Amravati, Jalgaon, Nashik and Aurangabad.
The state’s active caseload has more than doubled in the past month, from 36,917 on February 11 to 1,00,240 on March 11. Dr Balram Bhargava, director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, said no mutant strains were responsible and blamed Covid-inappropriate behaviour and congregations for the rise.
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said active cases in Maharashtra jumped from 36,917 on February 11 to 1,00,240 on March 11, a rise of 172%. Bhushan contrasted it with the example of Kerala that has reduced active cases from 64,607 in February 11 to 35,715 in March 11.
Ernakulam in Kerala and Bengaluru (urban) from Karnataka are the only two districts from outside the state in the top 10. “Increase is related to reduced testing, tracking and tracing and Covid-inappropriate behaviour and large congregations. There is also a hypothesis that re-opening of suburban trains, weddings have led to the spike,” Bhargava said.
Centre also issued a caution for Delhi and its neighbourhood, saying there was a rise in positivity rate in the Capital and NCR regions like Gurgaon and Faridabad as also Gautam Budh Nagar and Ghaziabad.
As per Central data, Pune district had the highest active cases (18,474) followed by Nagpur (12,724) and Thane (10,460). Mumbai was at fourth position (9,973). Amravati from the Vidarbha region and Aurangabad from Marathwada also featured in the top 10, along with Jalgaon and Nashik from northern Maharashtra. “The distribution of active cases shows that nearly every corner of the state right from Vidarbha, Marathwada to Konkan and western Maharashtra is seeing a surge,” a state official said.
The state’s daily positivity rate—another crucial indicator of higher transmission—hit 15% on Wednesday, a high last seen in October. Two districts, Dhule and Buldhana, had a daily positivity of 31% and 30% respectively while five, including Nashik (26%), Pune (26%), Jalna (22%) and Nagpur (20%), shot past the state average. Seven districts, including three from Marathwada and two from Vidarbha, have a daily positivity rate between 15% and 18%. The state’s positivity has increased three times since January. Among all major cities, Mumbai seems to be an outlier with daily positivity between 5-7%.
Dr Subhash Salunkhe, a member of the state advisory committee said the state would continue to see a rise in the coming few weeks. “Whatever measures have been put in place will take at least a few weeks to bear fruit. Till then we have to test and trace adequately,” he said. A state official said on Wednesday, over 97,000 tests were carried out, one of the highest tallies on a single day in the past month. However, it is evident some districts—Buldhana, Dhule, for example—are not testing much. Buldhana did 580 tests on March 9 while Dhule did less than 200.