With no proper infrastructure in villages, pressure is high on the district hospital
Surrounded by forests and hills, Chamarajanagar district which staved off the first wave of COVID-19 till as late as June 2020 and was in the ‘green’ category for long, is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases in rural areas than in urban centres in the second wave of the pandemic. The district witnessed the shocking deaths of 24 COVID-19 patients within 24 hours between Sunday and Monday, some of whom died allegedly due to lack of oxygen.
The surge in the number of positive cases in rural areas is indicated in the statistics from the district administration as per which 2,255 cases were reported in Chamarajanagar district between April 1 to April 25 this year against which 1,697 cases (or 75%) were from rural pockets.
In contrast, the urban regions reported 558 cases which accounted for 24.74% of the total cases between April 1 and 25, according to Deputy Commissioner of Chamarajanagar M.R. Ravi.
The situation has not eased since then. On May 3, Gundlupet, a commercial town, registered 8 new cases while 170 cases were reported from the rural areas of the taluk, according to the district administration.
Similarly, Kollegal is another business centre from where 35 new cases were reported on May 3 while 115 cases were reported from the rural areas of the taluk. Chamarajanagar town, which is the district headquarters, registered 84 new cases during the same period while 244 cases were reported from rural areas.
Last year the district administration took drastic measures to keep ‘outsiders’ at bay. It had even blocked roads winding through forests and connecting hamlets and villages, to minimise contact with the outside world. As a result, it remained ahead of the COVID-19 curve while the rest of the country was reeling under the pandemic.
No more isolation
But authorities say the district cannot continue to remain in perpetual isolation. This is because in the absence of industry and its economy being completely agrarian in nature, Chamarajanagar has a high percentage of working population from rural hinterland who traverse daily to other districts including Mysuru, Mandya and other regions for work.
Also, curtailing movement of workers was not part of the prevailing COVID-19 protocol and industrial and agricultural workers are exempted from it.
N.S. Prashanth of Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru, who has worked extensively in the district, says containment protocol in rural areas has to be different. He said it entails community participation and the urban system of policing will not work as isolating patients in rural areas also calls for measures to meet their daily needs.
The increase in patients from the rural hinterland is also adding to the pressure on the district hospital in Chamarajanagar, a district which was listed among the most backward in the State in D.M. Nanundappa Report on Regional Imbalances.
Lack of facilities
Dr. Prashanth said unlike other districts of south Karnataka region, Chamarajanagar has historically been plagued with issues related to scarcity of equipment and human resources.
Also, there is little by way of medical facilities in the rural hinterland and the pandemic is exposing those chinks and the imperatives of investing more on public health, he added.
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