Crucial stage

Nagaland officially registered the first COVID-19 positive cases on May 25 with the confirmation infections. With this, the global pandemic, hitherto ‘heard, seen or read,’ reached the State and the real challenge began. Since then, the State’s response to the pandemic have been admirable on the one hand while, while being utterly disconcerting on the other.

There is no single module to deal with the crisis across the world - a trial and error process, many would argue and concur; and the experience in the State has been no exception. The recent apology by by the State Government over an incident relating to handling of returnees is a case in point.

However, this is not a commentary on the relative competency or otherwise, in handling the crisis so far, but rather looking pragmatically at ‘numbers’ and draw certain inferences from the cases timeline since May 25.   

It exactly has been 50 days since the report of the first case. If one looks at the number of cases in the first 25 days – i.e. till June 18, the positive cases increased from 3 on May 25 to 193 on June 18.

However, the second half of the assessed period – June 19 to July 13, witnessed a sharp spike of 652 cases or an increase by over 337.83%.

In other words, while cases averaged 7.74 per day in the first half, it increased exponentially to 26.08 per day in the second half.   

By June 30, the virus spread further across the State as 8 out of 11 districts had positive cases. The status changed to 9 out of 11 districts by July 10.

Looking from another end, positive cases in the State took 38 days from May 25 to reach the 500 mark on July 1 (501).

In just 12 days since then, cases have already crossed that halfway threshold to reach 845 on July 13 – or an increased by 335 positive cases. So far in July, there have been 394 positive cases.

While the increase in the number of cases can also be attributed to ramping up of testing facilities in State with the operationalisation of second biosafety level level (BSL) laboratory on June 27 in Dimapur, just over a month after the first such facility in Kohima on May 21, as well as increased availability of Truenat testing facilities; there is a cause for concern over the rapid rise of cases in the last few days.

As per the Nagaland’s Health and Family Welfare Department analysis, the positivity rate - the average rate of samples testing positive for infection – as of July 11 was is just 3.18 in the State as against the country’s rate of 7.26. “The surge in cases is also due to infection within the quarantine centres when personal safety measures were compromised,” the department said, adding that all cases were related to returnees.

However, after the initial period when the cases were limited to various quarantine centres across the state, there are now instances of ‘secondary’ transmission either within these centres, among those on the frontline duty at such facilities or at COVID hospitals.  

Given the existing health infrastructure in the state, an increase in the positivity rate would prove detrimental to the system in the State. The State, thus, is now a crucial stage in the fight against COVID-19. 

Certain slackness at the initial period was understandable given the enormity as well as unfamiliarity with the pandemic. However, the concerned authorities as well as the public have undergone several learning curves during the past 50 days. The status, the fifty days hereafter, would be determined by how these experiences are put into practice and implemented.