With the Parliamentary standing committee seemingly in favour of reopening the schools in the country, no sooner all classrooms in the State will be unlocked. The State seems all set to go for total unlock in September.
In the event of a looming unlock scenario in the State from next month, a reality check on the current state of Covid-19 infection rate in Odisha reveals that there are as many as 12 districts where the rate is yet to touch the nil infection status. The infection rate is nil in nine districts -- Bargarh, Gajapati, Koraput, Jharsuguda, Nuapada, Bolangir, Kalahandi, Nabarangpur and Ganjam.
Moreover, among the 12 vulnerable districts, the Khordha (especially Bhubaneswar) district needs special pandemic focus. Because, with an infection rate of 0.15, the Capital City has been ranked at 129th in the country. In the Harvard infection rate index, Khordha is ranked above the Lower Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Harvard Infection Table
As per the computation of infection rates across the 718 districts in the country by the University of Harvard, Odisha's Khordha figured high at 129. The enormity at hand in the State Headquarters district can well be ascertained from the fact that the list of 129 districts is dominated by the current hotspot states - north-east India, Kerala, Telangana and Maharashtra.
The Harvard list puts three vital coastal Odisha districts in the top 200 districts across the country. The districts are as follow.
- Cuttack ------ Infection rate ---- 0.05 ----- Rank ---- 177
- Jagatsinghpur ------ Infection rate ---- 0.05 ----- Rank ---- 186
- Puri ------ Infection rate ---- 0.03 ----- Rank ---- 198
However, if a city-wise vulnerability in Odisha alone is considered then the Harvard infection rate table assigns a high value to the following.
- Bhubaneswar ---- Infection Rate ----- 0.14 Rank In State ---- 1
- Puri ---- Infection Rate ----- 0.06 Rank In State ---- 2
- Cuttack ---- Infection Rate ----- 0.05 Rank In State ---- 3
- Jagatsinghpur ---- Infection Rate ----- 0.04 Rank In State ---- 4
- Jajpur ---- Infection Rate ----- 0.03 Rank In State ---- 5
Though the 9 districts have a nil infection rate, the Rt value (transmission or contact rate) is 1.14 in Koraput, 1.04 in Bolangir, near 1 in Ganjam, 0.87 in Gajapati, 0.86 in Jharsuguda, 0.84 in Kalahandi, 0.78 in Nuapada, 0.77 each in Nabarangpur and Bargarh.
The Rt value in districts or cities having higher infection rates in the State hovers between 0.7 - 09.
As per SUTRA model genitor and IIT Kanpur Prof Manindra Agarwal, the safe zone of contact rate (Rt) to prevent the third wave is 0.33 -0.35.
The above data shows despite the nil infection rate, the contact rate, even, in all the 9 districts are not in the safe zone.
What Infection Rate and Rt Value Show?
As per Harvard University, a higher infection rate indicates the population is still at risk in a district/city, an unsafe Rt value denotes that contact rate may go haywire if the Covid appropriate norms are given a go by.
When the State is readying to open up the schools right from Class 1- 8 likely in September, especially after the Parliament Standing Committee report calls for the opening of all schools across the country, the time is ripe for Odisha to follow the conditions laid down by the Standing Committee in its report titled ‘Plans to bridge the learning gap caused due to school lockdown as well as a review of online and offline instructions and exams and plans for reopening of schools’.
- Accentuated vaccine programmes for all students, teachers and allied staff so that schools may start functioning normally at the earliest.
- The Important guideline: Classes may be held on alternate days or in two shifts to thin out students along with strict observance of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour in classrooms.
- Regular thermal screening at the time of attendance and random RTPCR tests may be conducted to identify and isolate any infected student/teacher/staff immediately.
- Each school should have at least two Oxygen concentrators with trained personnel to address any eventuality and provide first aid till the availability of outside medical help.
- Students belonging to economically weaker and marginalized sections of society may be supplied hand sanitiser/facemask at regular intervals.