Mandya: Unlike in the rest of the country, the young are driving the Covid-19 surge in Mandya district, the fertile Kaveri basin of Karnataka that is home to a prosperous and vocal paddy and sugarcane farming community.
According to data with the Mandya administration, those in the 21-40 age group account for nearly half of the Covid-19 cases in Mandya district.
While ThePrint was not able to collate data for the rest of Karnataka, the Mandya figures are in contrast to the national numbers. In April, the Modi government said older people were still more vulnerable than the youth in the current wave. At a Covid-19 briefing, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava said the mean age of Covid-19 patients in the second wave was 48.9 years, as opposed to the 50.4 years in the first wave, dispelling the notion that the young were getting more infected in the current pandemic phase.
In Mandya, the data shows a dramatic surge in the second wave of the pandemic, primarily driven by those below 40 years of age.
According to the data, for nearly a year between 7 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, the district had reported 20,035 cases.
But in just the nearly two months since — from 1 April to 24 May — the district has recorded 36,341 cases, a 181 per cent increase. In the same period, the district has registered 258 deaths.
Of the 36,341 cases, 45.5 per cent or 16,541 people are those in the 21-40 age group.
According to information provided by the district, 8,012 of those who tested positive are in the 21-30 age group, while 8,529 are in the 31-40 age group (see box).
There have also been 1,219 cases in the 0-10 age group and 3,308 cases in the 11-20 age group. In contrast, there have been 8,382 cases, or 23 per cent in this wave, in the 50+ age group.
A Mandya district official said one of the reasons could be that the young continued to remain outside in this Covid-19 wave.
“In the last wave everything was shut and people remained inside. In this wave, people especially the young ones continued to work and hence more have got infected,” the official said. “We are now conducting surveys to identify the infection at an earlier stage so that they can be treated.”
Mandya Deputy Commissioner S. Aswathi said another possible reason could be the low vaccination rates in the 18-45 age category, which only began recently.
“This, however, is just an assumption. We have not conducted any studies so far,” she said.
Strict lockdown in place
With younger people accounting for the bulk of the positive cases, the Mandya administration has now imposed a strict complete lockdown in the district to ensure that people stay at home.
Under the new rules, which came into effect Tuesday, there will be a total lockdown on four days of the week (not continuous), during which time only medical stores will be allowed to remain open.
“Every two days in a row we will have a complete lockdown, followed by a day when it will be relaxed. Following this, we would have a lockdown for another two days,” Mandya DC S. Aswathi told ThePrint. “Otherwise, we see a lot of people moving around every day.”
The DC added that the system will be in place for the next two weeks, after which the administration will take a call on whether to stick with it.
“At the state level, there is already a lockdown in place with restrictions,” she said. “But apart from that, the state has allowed deputy commissioners to enforce additional restrictions if required.”
Another senior official in the district added that the administration was forced to impose the stringent lockdown due to the current surge in cases.
“The severity of the second wave can be gauged by the fact that between last April and March, there were 20,000 cases,” the official said. “But just between April and May this year, there have been 36,000 cases already. We are getting a lot of positive cases in the younger age group. We have now opted for a complete lockdown to ensure people don’t come out unnecessarily.”
Young driving Mandya’s surge
Data with the Mandya administration shows that it is the young who are driving the surge in the district.
For instance, there have been 11,320 cases in the 11-30 age group in just the last two months. In contrast, the first wave between April 2020 and 31 March 2021, saw just 5,701 cases in the same age group.
Also, while the 61-70 age group has seen the highest number of deaths (84) in the district’s current surge, the fatality rate has risen sharply in the 41-50 category.
Only 14 people had died in the 41-50 age group for nearly a year of the first wave at a fatality rate of 0.39 per cent. In the last two months, however, 50 people have died in this age group for a fatality rate of 0.73 per cent.
In view of the current scenario, Deputy Commissioner S. Aswathi told ThePrint that the administration has also started a door-to-door survey for early detection of cases.
“Many patients when they are brought to the hospital, their oxygen saturation level is already 40 per cent or 50 per cent. In many cases, death occurs within 12 hours of them reaching the hospital,” she said.
“This is the trend that we had noticed sometime back and which is why we have started house-to-house surveys by ASHA workers and teachers. We are identifying whether there are people with symptoms because on their own, people may not come forward.
“We are doing it in all taluks, checking their temperature and detecting the symptoms and conducting tests too,” she added. “We hope that with this lockdown and the house-to-house survey, we will be able to bring down the number of cases.”
Speaking to ThePrint, Health Minister K. Sudhakar said the government is aware of the infection “slowly spreading in rural areas”. He said a gram panchayat task force is being formed at every gram panchayat to strengthen local management.
“Even PM Narendra Modi has suggested that district-level management is the key to contain Covid,” he added. “We will empower deputy commissioners and ensure that all necessary support is provided to them.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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