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High Fatality, Officials Affected: Behind MP’s Big COVID-19 Crisis

At over 7.6%, Madhya Pradesh has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in India. National averageis a little over 3%

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One state that is emerging as a major challenge in the battle against COVID-19 is Madhya Pradesh.

Consider these statistics.

  • Madhya Pradesh has the highest fatality rate – that is the number of deaths per 100 cases – in the country. MP’s fatality rate is 7.6 percent, much higher than the national average of about 3 percent.
  • As of 11 April, 40 people have died due to COVID-19 in Madhya Pradesh, second only to Maharashtra.
  • As of 9 April, tests conducted per million population in Madhya Pradesh was about 71, among the lowest in the country. Only Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Nagaland have even lower number of tests per million population.
  • Despite less testing, COVID-19 cases in MP have increased rapidly in the last two weeks – from 39 cases on 28 March to 179 on 4 April and 529 on 11 April.
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The Indore-Ujjain Cluster

Over half the COVID-19 cases in MP have been in one of its biggest cities – Indore. As of data released on 11 April, 281 out of MP’s 529 COVID-19 cases were in Indore, which is over 50 percent. Two-thirds of the deaths have also been from Indore, which has an alarmingly high fatality rate of over 10 percent. The district has seen 30 COVID-19 related deaths till 11 April.

As of 11 April, Indore is followed by the state capital Bhopal with 131 cases, 15 cases in Ujjain, 14 each in Khargone and Badwani, 13 in Morena and 13 in Vidisha. Jabalpur, Shivpuri, Gwalior, Chhindwara, Betul, Sheopur, Hoshangabad, Raisen, Khandwa, Dewas and Shajapur have all reported COVID-19 cases as well.

Besides Indore, the fatality rate is high in Ujjain at 33 percent and in Khargone at 14 percent. 90 percent of the deaths in MP have been from Indore and its neighbouring district of Ujjain.

Worryingly, among those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Indore are two doctors, indicating that not enough precautions were taken to protect them.

The other major cluster of COVID-19 cases in Indore is a group of people who took part in a funeral procession of a COVID-19 deceased.

According to reports, “A majority of the early deaths reported in the city were of people who showed no symptoms and got admitted to hospitals very late, with coronavirus having done much damage by then, or locals not taking their symptoms seriously”.

Government Officials Affected in Bhopal

Another worrying news from MP is that a number of government officials have contracted COVID-19.

As many as three top officials of the health department tested positive in the first week of April itself. One of the officials has been accused of dodging COVID-19 checks.

Since MP doesn’t have a health minister, they were coordinating much of the state’s response to the pandemic. With top officials affected, the state’s public health system has suffered. As these officials attended almost every meeting related to the pandemic, it has put others at the helm of MP’s COVID-19 campaign also at risk.

According to reports, over 50 percent of the COVID-19 cases in Bhopal are from government officials and their families. The health department and police – who are at the forefront of the government’s COVID-19 strategy – are the worst affected.

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Opposition Alleges Political Failure

The Congress, which is the main Opposition in the state, has accused the BJP government of not being serious enough in tackling COVID-19.

Another criticism that BJP is facing is that its celebrations after capturing power in the state were in violation of social distancing norms.

If MP’s response remains the same, questions will be asked about not just the Shivraj Chouhan government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis but also why it didn’t do enough to expand the state’s public health capacity despite being in power for much of the last 15 years.

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