While most states in the country have seen Covid positivity rates drop over the past couple of weeks, bringing down the national average, the figures in Sikkim are a cause of concern.
The Himalayan state, which has a population of less than 7 lakh, recorded an average positivity rate of 16.4 per cent over the last week -- June 21 to June 27. This is five times the national average of 2.93 per cent for last week.
Covid positivity rate is a percentage of total samples tested that turn out to be positive. It is a key indicator of the spread of the disease in a community.
As per state data, the daily positivity rate for Sikkim dropped below 10 per cent only once in the last week, recording 9.2 per cent positivity on June 25. The figure shot up to 20.8 per cent on June 27, more than seven times the national positivity rate of 2.82 per cent for the same day. The national positivity rate has remained below 5 per cent for the last two weeks.
In terms of recoveries too, Sikkim's numbers are not very encouraging. The state recorded a recovery rate -- percentage of recovered patients out of the total confirmed cases -- of 86 per cent yesterday. The national recovery rate for the same day was 96.75 per cent. While Sikkim's average recovery rate for the past week was 77.3 per cent, the national average was above 95 per cent.
Till March 31 this year, Sikkim had recorded about 6,200 cases and 135 deaths. The numbers rose rapidly during the second wave over the past three months, with the state recording about 14,000 new cases and 169 deaths.
Government authorities said they are now getting a higher number of patients with comorbidities.
"Many of the people testing positive for Covid have comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension. We are also getting many patients with kidney diseases and cancer. Their recovery is taking time and hence the recovery rate is low. We don't have any shortage of treatment facilities but patients are arriving late," said Dr Pempa Tshering Bhutia, director general of Sikkim's Health Department.
The Opposition, however, has claimed that the state government became complacent during the second wave. "Sikkim is geographically challenging so the mantra of test, track and treat which we feel was much more robust in the 1st wave is not happening now. The system might have become a little complacent in the 2nd wave," Dr Bina Basnet, president of the Hamro Sikkim party told NDTV.
The pandemic situation in the state has also drawn sharp comments from the judiciary. Hearing a public interest litigation on Covid management in the state last week, the Sikkim High Court said that the state government did not feel it necessary to formulate any concrete policy to face the ongoing pandemic.
"Emergent situation seems to have been met on a daily basis. The information provided to us does indicate that a lot more needs to be done to meet the challenges brought by each new wave of COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the districts. The experience in the last two years of the pandemic provides a number of useful indicators and information for the state to augment its resources in a more systematic and planned manner, which is the need of the hour," the court observed.
The court also said virus research and diagnostic laboratories must be set up in every district.
"We deem it relevant to record that VRDL facility is required in each district of Sikkim, besides, bearing in mind the onset of monsoon and the related consequence of landslides and inaccessibility of one district from the other, a sample collected from the West District for testing cannot be left to the vagaries of nature should there be road blocks to the South District," it said.
The court further said that the vaccine programme is a cause of concern despite the state having a small population.
"The vaccination programme is a cause of concern for the state. Although the population of the entire state stands at a meagre number of approximately 7 lakh, we are informed that presently vaccines are not available for the 18-44 age group whose population reportedly stands at 2,90,000 only," it said.
"Considering the entire population of the state, a meagre amount of 14 lakh vaccines would be the approximate requirement of the state. Thus, we trust that the state-respondents shall make untiring and proactive efforts to obtain the entire number of requisite doses so that the population of the state can be vaccinated at the earliest," the high court added.
As on June 27, 4,33,136 lakh doses of vaccine have been administered in Sikkim. While 3,71,539 people have received one dose, 61,597 have received both.
As per state data, Sikkim has recorded 20,182 Covid cases so far and 304 deaths. The number of active cases stands at 2027.