With no let-up in the Covid surge due to the ferocious second wave of the pandemic nor a pause in the fatality rate, Himachal Pradesh on Saturday decided to extend “corona curfew” till May 26.
Only yesterday, the state recorded a record 67 Covid deaths of which the highest, 32, was from in Kangra – the state’s biggest district. The total number of deaths due to Covid has already exceeded 2,200 –-- an alarming figure for the small state.
At a cabinet meeting, which Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had convened to review the Covid management measures, there was complete consensus about the need of extending the curfew for another 10 days to break the infection cycle.
State’s health secretary Amitabh Awasthi made a detailed presentation in the cabinet highlighting the “facts and figures” on growing pressures on the health infrastructure due to unprecedented spike this month, and facilities running short of growing demand for beds, oxygen facility and Covid care in the hospitals, also for those under home isolation.
Reports said principal of Lal Bahadur Shastri Medical College & Hospital, Ner Chowk (Mandi), had written a letter to the government saying it was difficult to accommodate more Covid patients due to scarcity of oxygenated beds. There was an immediate need for a makeshift Covid-care facility. Some patients who have recovered at this hospital have sent letters to the government pointing out serious shortcomings and that the doctors were unable to manage the increasing number of patients.
With infection also spreading to the rural areas leaving several families devastated, the hospitals are unable to cope with shortage of beds. Oxygen is also in short supply as the department has no cylinders for a refill.
Meanwhile, following the heart-wrenching incident involving a man carrying the body of his mother, who died of Covid, on his shoulder in Kangra, the chief minister passed an order to the deputy commissioners to oversee proper cremation of Covid patients. Senior officials should supervise and facilitate the cremations since the villagers were not coming forward to help the bereaved families fearing contamination.
The forest department will provide the fuel wood free of cost for performing the last rites.
The cabinet will also allow the medical colleges and zonal and regional hospitals and hospitals with bed capacity of 200 and above to hire hearses.
The cabinet imposed a ban on allowing hiring of huge marriage palaces, community halls and tent houses and outside catering and DJ/band for weddings as these were turning out to be superspreader events. Only 20 persons are now allowed at weddings and barats have been banned.