Maharashtra has seen 16-fold jump in number of positive cases since March 26, whereas Kerala appears to be flattening the curve



Maharashtra, which started with the same number of Covid-19 positive cases as Kerala, has since seen a jump of nearly 16 times in the number of infections — this when the southern state looks at bending the Covid-19 curve. On March 26, a day after the national lockdown was announced, Maharashtra and Kerala reported almost the same number of cases at 122 and 120, respectively.

Both the states had similarities, in terms of people arriving from the Middle East as well as concentration of cases in a few districts. Importantly, both states have carried out a number of tests, though per million population Kerala’s is higher. Yet, 18 days after the lockdown, the number of cases in Maharashtra has jumped 16 times to 1,982, including 149 deaths. In comparison, Kerala has 374 including 2 deaths. In Kerala, almost half of these 374 persons have recovered.

As Maharashtra extended its lockdown till April 30, Mumbai, which has become the epicentre of the Covid-19 in the state, continues to see a rise in the number of positive patients. More troubling, the city also has the highest fatality rate in the country. Epidemiologists, and physicians that ET spoke to, said that on ground the city appears to be faltering in early detection and screening. Despite the fairly high number of tests in the state, experts say that the city could be detecting cases late, leading to deaths.

It is possible that there seems to be late and not very effective treatment in case of severe illness, said Dr Giridhara R Babu, an epidemiologist with the Public Health Foundation of India. Maharashtra has collected 36,771laboratory samples of which 34,094 were negative for coronavirus as on April 11. Maharashtra has conducted 298 tests per million.

On the other hand, Kerala has tested 14,163 samples out of which 12,818 came as negative. Kerala has conducted 401 tests per million — this is a much higher number of tests per million compared to Maharashtra.

Nonetheless, compared to the national average, the reasonably high testing numbers in Maharashtra, which has also seen more deaths indicates that the surveillance in the state might not be adequate. “It is possible that they might be testing more of people whom they may not have to and not detecting the cases earlier enough and not treating the cases well enough”, R Babu said.

Dr Rahul Ghule, founder of the startup 1Rupee clinic, has deployed 50 paramedical and trained physicians on ground to screen people for fever or Covid-19 symptoms. “We know that the BMC is not able to get its staff door-to-door for screening; so, we offered to start clinics and screen people on behalf of them. But our proposal is still stuck with the commissioners,” Ghule told ET. Messages and phone calls to BMC commissioners Praveen Pardeshi and additional commissioner Suresh Kakani remain unanswered.

His proposal to BMC was that his team of doctors will screen 10 lakh people in one week at ₹5 per person, but there were disagreements at the top level on the screening strategy.