The Coronavirus crisis in Andhra Pradesh has escalated from a slow burn to an explosion with daily reported numbers now rivaling global figures and the daily increase being highest in the world for several days next only to the US, Brazil and Columbia.
Barely a month after numerous footage of inhuman burials of COVID-19 victims shook the country, Andhra Pradesh is back in the news for its rapidly escalating Coronavirus crisis. For several days in the last fortnight, the State has reported more cases than any other Indian states; with as many as 10,000 new cases for five consecutive days last week. Andhra Pradesh recorded its first case on March 12, while the first death was recorded at the end of the month. It is believed that the outbreak has since progressed unchecked, especially after the return of migrant workers and the Chief Minister’s callous attitude.
As of August 11, the State’s total caseload crossed way past the grim figure of 2 lac and stood at 2,35,525 cases, out of which, 87,773 still remain active. Active cases in the State have shot up by 176% over the past two weeks propelling the State from 7th place to 2nd place in terms of active cases. The State has surpassed the national positivity rate at 9.29% as against the national average of 9.01%. About 4,510 out of every 10 lakh people in AP have tested positive for the virus, which is more than twice the national average of 1704 cases per million. To make things worse, the State’s doubling rate currently stands at 10.84 days, which is fastest among larger states and almost twice as fast as the national average.
Multiple COVID Capitals
Andhra Pradesh now accounts for 40% of the country’s worst-affected districts as eight out of 20 worst-hit districts in the country are in the State. In most parts of India, a bulk of infections have been concentrated in and around the prominent urban centres, and in many states, a maximum of three large cities account to 50% of total cases. Andhra Pradesh, however, has been an exception to this trend as all the districts are registering a significantly higher number of cases. East Godavari, Kurnool, Guntur, Visakhapatnam and Chittoor have the highest number of cases which continue to rise.
Writing on the wall
The YSRCP Government’s ostrich-headed approach in handling the coronavirus pandemic has been widely criticized from the start. The Chief Minister became a subject of ridicule when he trivialized the epidemic as a regular fever and further claimed that it could be managed using paracetamol and bleaching powder. At the time when the pandemic shook the country, the Jagan Reddy government was determined to see local body polls conducted and slandered the State Election Commissioner (SEC) for his timely intervention by postponing them. Voices of healthcare workers and public officials who raised alarms over non-availability of suitable medical equipment were stifled. The government’s procurements of testing kits from South Korea at a higher price reeked of a scam triggering allegations of profiteering during a pandemic. As the testing was ramped up, the discrepancy in State’s COVID-19 numbers caught the public eye on several occasions. Current Leader of Opposition and Former CM Chandrababu Naidu who has consistently raised concerns over the State’s mishandling of the pandemic has also accused the government of fudging numbers and running a “fake testing” racket. YSRCP legislators frequently violated lockdown with their events creating fertile grounds for further spread of infection. The situation took no time in worsening and several posts on the medical crisis in the State started doing rounds on social media.
Defending the indefensible
Following public outcry over a worrying increase in cases, the YSRCP government attributed this to a higher testing rate. Given the rapid spread of infection across the State, it is clear that despite its tall claims of ramping up testing, the YSRCP government failed to successfully isolate infected individuals and stop the spread of infection, thus defeating the very purpose of mass-testing. The government has repeatedly made claims about improving medical facilities. However, several of its own COVID affected Ministers have blown the lid off these claims by turning to private hospitals in Hyderabad. While the State has mandated the use of masks, the Chief Minister is rarely spotted wearing one himself.
The debate over 3-Capitals and the much publicized Mood of the Nation Survey have offered the government a much needed curtain of diversion. Behind this curtain lies is a crisis of epic proportions waiting to explode.