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Bhilwara hotbed of coronavirus in Rajasthan

JAIPUR: The first coronavirus death in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara on Thursday, coupled with the fact that nearly half the number of confirmed cases in the state belong to this district, has set off alarm bells about Bhilwara becoming the “epicentre” of the virus in the state. The 73-year-old patient was suffering from chronic kidney disease and diabetes and later tested positive for Covid-19. He was admitted to the Brajesh Bangar Hospital in Bhilwara district after a brain stroke on March 3 and stayed there till March 11 before being transferred.

On Thursday evening, his son and granddaughter too tested positive, taking the total number of positive cases in the state to 43. The question uppermost on the minds of health facilitators is whether the victim contracted the disease from one of the doctors, who was found affected on March 20, after an asymptomatic returnee from Saudi Arabia visited the hospital. While the state government searches for answers to these questions, it is faced with a huge challenge posed by the outbreak in Bhilwara. Consider this: after the first doctor tested positive, two more doctors and three nurses and para-medics, besides three other persons came down with the deadly virus. Eighteen of the 43 confirmed cases in the desert state belong to Bhilwara.

What has spooked the state government is that the hospital treated thousands of patients before the doctors and nurses tested positive for Covid-19, raising concerns that they may have infected others as well. This forced the Bhilwara administration to impose curfew in the entire district and seal all exits. Twenty-five other persons found to have been in immediate contact of affected doctors and health personnel were immediately quarantined. The administration ordered a complete lockdown, sealed markets and launched an all-out screening of 3.5 lakh people in 80,000 households. The exercise is halfway through, but the district magistrate has now alerted neighbouring districts, that a few patients who attended the hospitals were also suspects and needed to be tracked immediately.

Bhilwara Collector Rajendra Bhatt said, “Other collectors have been sent lists and details of the people who could have come in contact with the positive cases. They have been asked to get them all screened.” Additional Chief Secretary, Medical and Health Department Rohit Kumar Singh said that Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) have started working on a war footing and RRTs from Udaipur have also been summoned to render all public places such as hospitals, railway and bus stations and religious places in Bhilwara infection-free. He said samples of 25 patients suspected with the disease have been brought to Jaipur and tested out of which 10 tested negative, while results of the other 15 samples were inconclusive.

Doctors said the coronavirus impact was earlier concentrated near the hospital, but now it seems to be moving towards the community stage. They said till now doctors, nursing workers and other staff were the ones to be found positive, but now patients who had been in contact with them, or even others contacted by the medical personnel are turning out to be positive. “The real worry is that it is spreading even out of Bhilwara district and many of them may not be easily tracked before they have done the damage,” said a doctor. Meanwhile, all cases found positive have been kept in isolation. Others with milder symptoms or suspected cases have been advised quarantine, with some being isolated at home. Health Minister Raghu Sharma remained confident that the crisis would be tackled effectively. “We think the condition is under control and the CM along with senior officials and health experts are tracking all developments.”