Survey finds smaller towns unprepared to handle fast-spreading Covid-19

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on August 19, 2020

The hospitals in rural areas are unequipped to deal with the Covid crisis   -  Nagara Gopal

58% of the people surveyed believe tier-3, 4 towns and rural areas unprepared to handle the pandemic

As the number of districts reporting 1,000 or more Covid-19 cases has jumped more than three times within a month, inadequate healthcare infrastructure in these districts pose a big challenge for rural India.

Data shows that the total number of districts with 1,000 or more Covid-19 cases has increased to 372 now as compared to 104 about a month ago and only 20 on May 17, 2020, when the country started relaxing the lockdown.

Clearly, the spread of the virus has been wide and fast since the lifting of the lockdown. A recent survey conducted by community social media platform — LocalCircles — reveals that majority of the people from tier-3, tier-4 towns and villages in the districts believe that they were unprepared to tackle the pandemic.

The survey received over 24,000 responses from across 242 districts of India. When asked how they believe tier 3, tier 4 towns and rural districts are currently positioned with their health infrastructure to handle the fast spreading pandemic, 58 per cent citizens said they are unprepared to handle it.

At many rural areas there is only one district hospital functioning as a quarantine centre. And if there are any critical cases, majority of these districts do not have the capability of handling Covid-19 cases.

In such cases, the patient is referred to a nearest tier 2 or tier 3 town which has at least a few hospitals treating Covid cases. But for many such facilities, the distance is several hundred kilometres.

Of the total 739 districts in the country, about half or 372 districts have reported more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases.

“..As Covid-19 case load increases in the other 364 districts that are largely tier 4 or rural, the critical patients may not be able to find the needed healthcare. The other risk that exists is that as Covid-19 spreads in rural India and many patients visit nearby towns and big cities for treatment, it could worsen the situation in these places with what people are calling as the second wave of Covid-19 cases,” LocalCircles noted in a note on the survey, which was aimed at getting the collective pulse of people on how the government should proceed with handling the situation.

Lockdown favoured

On the way forward, 53 per cent citizens favoured of some sort of lockdown — either nation-wide, or state-wide, or confined to districts or during the weekends. The citizens are worried because the last 1 million cases in India took only 20 days, which is faster than both the US which took 43 days and Brazil which took 27 days.

In case of no lockdowns, and the government’s indication for ‘living with corona’, 47 per cent of people said they will go out only for essential needs and work, 34 per cent said they will go out only for critical needs and work, and 14 per cent said they will not go out at all and order products/services to come home.

But surprisingly only 4 per cent said they will live a life like pre-Covid times by visiting malls, restaurants etc. This indicates a greater level of fear among the people still prevalent making it difficult for them to digest the idea of ‘living with corona’.

Published on August 19, 2020

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