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India Coronavirus Dispatch: Bengal's frontline workers fret over Durga Puja

Hospitals spend 3x more on oxygen despite price caps, Varanasi's 200-year-old Ram Lila disrupted, Delhi govt's advice on treating dengue, malaria--news on how the country is coping with the pandemic

Coronavirus | Durga Puja | West Bengal

Shreegireesh Jalihal  |  New Delhi 

A man covering the face of Goddess Durga's idol with a face-mask to create awareness regarding covid-19 during the Durga Puja festival, in Kolkata on Tuesday.
A man covering the face of Goddess Durga's idol with a face-mask to create awareness regarding covid-19 during the Durga Puja festival, in Kolkata on Tuesday.

Frontline workers on Durga Puja: As celebrates its biggest festival, health experts and frontline workers express their worry over what might happen. Their apprehensions, they say, began with shopping season which saw crowded markets with unmasked people. Doctors who have worked without a single day off for months say the situation — despite court orders — is disheartening. Any potential surge in cases means an already stretched public healthcare system is forced to on even higher burden. Particularly demoralising is the fact that many health workers have succumbed to the virus already. It’s not just doctors who have been breaking their backs for months as even police officers pointed out that pandal hopping is taking place despite the HC order. Read more here.

Delhi govt advise to hospitals: has written to in the city, advising them on how to treat both Covid-19 and diseases like dengue and malaria whose symptoms overlap with the former. The govt’s parameters highlight the ways to diagnose diseases with similar symptoms. Further, the advisory also notes that onset of winter makes things worse. Doctors at Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital, for example, say that if a patient tests negative for Covid but is found infected with some other disease then they’re referred elsewhere. Covid facilities have also been advised to be ready to conduct the tests recommended by ICMR for Covid-19 and those suggested by the National Centre for Disease Control for seasonal diseases. Read more here.

woes: Despite price caps, in India are spending up to three times more on than they were before the pandemic. In response to surge in demand for medical grade oxygen, the NPPA had lowered the ceiling price for medical in late September. However, a surge in transport and labour costs has meant that the overall rates for oxygen have remained high. Even though officials maintain that there’s no shortage of oxygen supply at this point, its costs have been unregulated and exorbitant. The price cap, some people say, is therefore ineffective in regulating prices. Further, since the price cap excluded the cost of transportation it also led to disparities in prices based on hospital location. Other infrastructural costs, such as compressors used to fill oxygen cylinders, are also adding to the overall charges. Read more here.

Ramnagar ki Ramlila: Ramnagar ki Ramlila, a 200-year-old Ramlila performance in Varanasi, always prided itself for never having been disrupted in its long history. It was performed through years of famine and regime changes. The Ramlila was not stopped even during wartime. This year, however, has been vastly different. Letters sent to the UP govt and the PMO to allow a broadcast of the performance on DD got no reply. Allowing only 100 people at a time to watch the performance is not feasible, say organisers. Further, the Kashi Maharaja also crosses the Ganges every year to visit the Ramlila at Chitrakoot. This tradition too will be broken this year. Read more here.


‘Wish to give back to society’: A senior doctor of PGIMER is among the 101 volunteers for the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine candidate. In a conversation about his decision to volunteer for the vaccine candidate, he says it’s now his ‘endeavour to give back to the society, ethically, morally and with complete responsibility’. He is a part of the Phase 2 clinical trials of Covishield. He has received one dose so far and will be given another towards the end of the month. He says he has not experienced any symptoms so far. The doctor, aged 64, also has a co-morbidity. He is therefore in the high-risk category. He says that if the vaccine is effective for him then it will be helpful for senior citizens across the board. He says he has discussed the pros and cons of the exercise only with his wife. He says no prediction regarding the virus has been 100 per cent true so far and hence guessing about a possible second wave is difficult. Read more here.

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First Published: Fri, October 23 2020. 14:46 IST