Districts in Telangana, India's youngest state, are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic, a study published in the reputed journal The Lancet has revealed. The study is based on 15 indicators covering the following domains: socio-economic, demographic, housing and hygiene, epidemiological and health system.
As per the July 16 COVID-19 bulletin, the state has 41,018 confirmed cases and 13,328 active cases of coronavirus. A total of 396 people have died of the disease so far.
According to the study conducted by Dr Rajib Acharya and Akash Porwal, Telangana is behind Madhya Pradesh and Bihar in terms of overall vulnerability to COVID-19. It has an overall vulnerability score of 0.943. The highest any state can score in this study is 1.000, which is Madhya Pradesh's score.
Telangana also has one of the highest "epidemiological vulnerability" score in the country at 8.000. This kind of vulnerability includes the proportion of men and women who suffer from co-morbidities.
While Telangana is still not among the top 5 coronavirus hotspots in India, the number of cases in the state have risen sharply in the recent weeks. On June 27, the state had 13,436 cases, which rose to over 41,000 cases by July 16. This is over three fold increase in the number of cases in just three weeks.
The state government has also been lagging behind in actively testing the population. It has conducted only 4,954 tests per million, which is the third lowest in the country after Bihar and Jharkhand.
Moreover, the Telangana government has been under the scanner for allegedly under-reported the actual number of cases as well as total fatalities.
A recent report in Deccan Chronicle noted how a technical loophole is allegedly helping the state government to under-report: If death happens when test results are awaited, it's not officially COVID-19.
The allegation has also been corroborated by mortuary workers. On Monday, two employees of Gandhi Hospital, the main COVID-19 treatment facility in Hyderabad, said there had been no less than 30 deaths at just that hospital alone.
"Twenty-five bodies were taken away for last rites after identification by their families,” V. Satyam (name changed), a contract worker who prepares the bodies to be handed over to famiies, told the newspaper.
Another contract worker, E Prasad (name changed), was quoted by Deccan Chronicle as saying: “There have been more than 20 deaths per day over the past many days. The mortuary is full. Sometimes, bodies are left in the wards because there is no space available in the mortuary.”
As expected, the state government has denied any such under-reporting of data, saying that it has nothing to hide from anyone.
Yet, Telangana's high overall vulnerability score but middling coronavirus tally compared to states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat gives a basis for widely voiced criticism that the real picture in Telangana is yet to emerge.
Maharashtra, the worst affected state, has a score of 0.829 while Tamil Nadu has a score of 0.571. Tamil Nadu's overall vulnerability score is significantly lower than that of Telangana, despite the latter having over 1 lakh cases. Gujarat, which is the third worst affected state, has a score of 0.771.
Thus, a question arises: Whether Telangana has been spared from the worst of coronavirus or is the worst yet to come?...