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#Column: Why is Covid19 death rate so high in Ahmedabad?

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Of the 8,144 Covid19 positive cases reported in Ahmedabad so far, 493 have succumbed to the illness. This means the city has a death rate of around 6.05% for Corona positive patients, which is the worst in the entire country.

In fact, the death rate has decreased slightly in the past three days, otherwise the death rate was around 6.75%. Ahmedabad has the second highest number of positive patients after Mumbai. Despite Mumbai having more than double the number of Covid19 cases, the death count is around 696. This makes the death rate in Mumbai around 3.75%. This is almost half of the death rate reported for Ahmedabad.

This high death rate in Ahmedabad, which is considered as one of the best places to avail healthcare facilities, has shocked many, including senior political leaders in the state and Centre too. This was considered as one of the main reasons why Vijay Nehra was sidelined as Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner.

Many experts feel that this has happened due to the continuous mishandling of the situation by bureaucrats for two months. A medical expert explained that the worst decision of the city administration was to close down all private hospitals and clinics. Most of them were forced to shut shop immediately after the announcement of Lockdown 1.

Since many citizens were suffering from illnesses other than Covid19, all of them were forced to stop physically consulting with their medical practitioners. The only OPD working in the city was at Civil Hospital, which had Covid19 centres too. Most of the patients avoided visiting Civil Hospital for other illnesses fearing Corona infection. In this situation, the condition of these citizens started deteriorating. As the government reports point out – most of the Covid19 fatalities had co-morbid conditions like diabetes, heart ailments and blood pressure among others.

Also, the slow pace of testing meant Covid19 confirmation came too late for many people. There were cases when by the time a Covid19 case was confirmed, the patient had already turned critical due to other illnesses. They died within 24 hours of Corona being confirmed.Senior medical experts brought this to the notice of city administration and immediate corrective measures were taken by the team led by senior IAS officer Rajiv Gupta. They talked to the Ahmedabad Medical Association and tried to convince them that local medical practitioners should restart OPDs immediately so that the death rate can be brought under control. Now, the state government is also learnt to have understood these mistakes. Efforts are now on to ensure that citizens can access medical help for their routine ailments so that even if they test positive for Covid19, their immunity is strong enough to fight it out. City administration is now on track to restart OPD treatment in full swing and bring the situation under control.

The national death rate due to Covid19 is also around 3%, which is half of the Gujarat rate. This is why now the top priority of the state government is to bring the Ahmedabad death rate at par or lower than the national one.

(The author is a senior journalist with over two decades of experience covering Gandhinagar, bureaucracy and politics in Gujarat.)

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