Assam, the state which had reported one of the lowest death rates and one of the highest recovery rates in the country during the first wave of COVID-19 last year, has now been witnessing a fourfold increase in its number of deaths due to the disease. The state has been able to cut down the positivity rate to below five per cent, but the number of fatalities has gone up significantly - an increase by four times within this month alone, raising concerns.
The spike in Covid deaths this month in the state is alarming - 23 people died of Covid on May 1 and by May 24, the number of daily fatalities was at 92, up by four times or 400 per cent.
In a span of just 53 days from April 1 to May 23, 1,623 people have died of COVID-19 pushing the mortality rate to 1.08 per cent. In the first wave, the total death count in a year was 1105 and the mortality rate was just 0.51 per cent - one of the lowest in the country.
As per the health officials, two key factors are responsible for this trend - The patients who reach the hospital late after turning critical during home isolation and also this time, the deaths of Covid-positive cases with comorbidities are being counted. During the first wave , the deaths of those with comorbidities were not considered as Covid deaths.
At Guwahati Medical College, that has Assam's biggest COVID treatment facility, doctors are concerned about a worrying trend of critical Covid patients reporting to hospital at a late stage of infection and deaths within two days of admission.
"We have analysed 366 deaths, out of them 182 deaths were within 48 hours of hospitalization, 131 deaths within 24 hours of hospitalisation" Dr Achyut Baishya; Principal and Chief Superintendent of Guwahati Medical college told NDTV.
Public health experts say there is still hesitancy among people to get tested and go to hospitals.
"The death toll is rising in absolute numbers in the state. There is a tendency among people to opt for home isolation and perhaps the hype on hospital beds running out on social media has added to it. It's time for the government to reach out to the newly-infected patients to get them to hospitals early" said Dr Chiranjeeb Kakoty , a Guwahati based noted Public Health Consultant.
Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's new COVID-19 hospital protocol -- the 'odd hour management' protocol that puts senior doctors on duty in the dead of night from 11 pm to 5 pm -- has improved the treatment management. But it is not clear yet if the strategy can reduce deaths.
Assam reported 5,704 fresh COVID-19 cases on Thursday, informed the state government. With this, the cumulative case count in the state has reached 3,92,574. The northeastern state also saw 4,784 recoveries and 83 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the overall tallies to 3,34,418 and 3,088 respectively.