Peak battle two: Andaman and Nicobar administrators focus on reducing the spread
Authorities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are taking proactive steps to contain the spread of Covid, following a surge in cases, largely due to outbound travelers, over the past month. The islands recorded 16 Covid deaths in the second wave, bringing the toll since last year to 78, and currently have 195 active cases.
Officials said all cases have been reported in Andaman and no cases have yet been found in Nicobar district.
Interestingly, the group of islands, with a population of over four lakh, has achieved three times the zero-covid case distinction since the pandemic started last year – in March and May 2020 and in January of that year. year. This was made possible in large part thanks to the travel restrictions imposed on the islands – measures which were tightened in the second wave.
âIn December 2020, we imposed a rule that anyone coming to Andaman and Nicobar was required to have a RTPCR test performed and produced for verification. No one was allowed to enter without it, âsaid RN Sharma, Secretary of Health Andaman and Nicobar. The Indian Express.
âThe fact that Andaman and Nicobar Islands are almost 600 islands scattered over 800 km has limited the spread of the virus in a way. But it had its own drawbacks and we had to restrict travel between the islands to prevent the virus from spreading, âhe said.
âThe small population aided us in robust contact tracing. But one thing we did to make sure the virus didn’t spread to other islands was to contain all of the positive cases in one place. They would be placed in institutionalized isolation in hospitals and Covid care centers, treated and released only when recovered. “
Deputy Director (Health) and Covid Nodal Officer Dr Avijit Roy said that once cases started to increase in Wave 2, the administration quickly put a number of measures in place, including a layer of tests. âIn addition to the mandatory RTPCR, now when a passenger arrives they have to undergo a quick test at the airport. Even though both tests are negative, the passenger still has to undergo a seven-day quarantine. In the event of a positive test, passengers are sent to institutional quarantine for 14 days, âhe said.
Dr Roy said Andaman experienced its highest daily load of 97 new cases 10 days ago – all from Port Blair. Of the 195 current active cases, seven are in northern and central Andaman, while all the rest are in the southern Andaman district, around the densely populated capital of Port Blair.
âThe outbreak happened in Andaman because of tourists coming, sometimes with false RTPCR reports. They would get to Port Blair and then the virus would spread, ” Dr Roy said.
Last month, a group of 40 workers arrived at Port Blair Airport with negative RTPCR reports on their way to Nicobar Island for construction work. Thirty of them tested positive at the airport. Although the administration has not banned flights so far, they have been curtailed and passengers restricted. Hotels, tourist hotspots, shops and establishments have been closed to stop the spread.
Inter-island and inter-district movements have been completely halted since last month. The only movement is that of the administration itself – carrying essential supplies such as rations or gas to the islands or travel by medical professionals to perform tests. So far, the administration has performed 3,777,293 tests, recording a positivity rate of 1.7%.
The Andaman and Nicobar administration has a Covid-specific disaster plan in place that aims to treat 4,000 patients during an outbreak. Much of the infrastructure is already in place. To date, the islands have a total of 6,376 Covid beds, of which 6,181 beds are vacant, according to administration data.
Most of the occupied beds – 188 – are in the South Andaman district, specifically at GB Pant Hospital, the islands main Covid hospital.
In the scattered islands of Andaman and Nicobar, Covid centers equipped with oxygen beds have been set up. When patients need specialist medical care, they are airlifted and brought to Port Blair for treatment – at a cost of Rs 3 lakh per evacuation. âThe Andaman administration has spent Rs 77 lakh on evacuations so far,â Dr Roy said.
The administration has already covered 25% of its population with vaccinations, of which 97.8% of its residents over 45 received the first dose while 16.34% received both doses.
âOur healthcare professionals and all of our Covid Warriors are doing an exceptional job on the ground. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have limited resources – no high-tech hospitals or large numbers of doctors and nurses. Yet the administration has been able to contain the virus admirably, âsaid Kuldeep Rai Sharma, congressman for Andaman and Nicobar, Lok Sabha.