Rural India worst hit in second COVID wave: Report

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Cremation ground Simapuri Delhi/ FPK photo Kaisar Andrabi

New Delhi: Rural areas were worst hit by the second wave of COVID compared to urban centres and India accounted for over half of daily global cases for six days in May due to surge in infections in rural districts, said the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in its ‘pandemic pointers’ released on Friday.

As part of its new data compendium on overall environmental issues, released on the eve of the World Environment Day, the pointers show that 53% of new cases and 52% of deaths in the country last month were recorded in rural districts.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has severely exposed India’s healthcare system. While the abysmal state of preparedness in urban India has been in the limelight, a more distressing scenario is emerging from the rural hinterland,” said the CSE in the new statistical report — State of India’s Environment in Figures, 2021.

Flagging the gaps in existing health infrastructure, it said, “The community health centres in rural India need 76% more doctors, 56% more radiographers and 35% more lab technicians.”

Noting that India accounted for every other new Covid case and every third death due to the infection recorded globally in the first 26 days of May, the report said, “What escaped everyone’s notice is that every second new case and death reported from India in May was from the rural districts. This means every fourth case reported in the world that month was from rural India.”

Emphasising on the need to have enough data to take right policy decisions and make intervention on time to minimise the severity of crisis, CSE director general Sunita Narain said, “It is accepted today that one of the reasons we missed out on the virulence and speed of the second wave is because the model for predictions did not have adequate data on the immunity surveys on the populations.”

Pointing to the load of biomedical waste the country is grappling with as a result of the pandemic, the report said there had been a 46% increase in Covid biomedical waste between April and May 2021. “At the same time, treatment of this waste has dipped,” it said, noting that hospitals dealing with Covid-19 patients produced 2 lakh kg of biomedical waste per day in May which was roughly 33% of India’s non-Covid biomedical waste.

Referring to available data, the report flagged a worrying picture, saying India managed to treat 88% of its biomedical waste in 2019 compared to almost 93% in 2017. “India still disposes 12% of its hospital waste without any treatment. Bihar and Karnataka fare the worst,” it said.


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