The state government had closed down the quarantine facilities as the Covid situation had improved remarkably towards the end of 2020. The second wave has thrown up concerns about the occupancy of hospital beds by asymptomatic Covid patients, who don’t have adequate and safe home isolation facilities.
Executive director, Assam National Health Mission, Dr Manoj Choudhury, told TOI on Saturday that an estimated 60-70% of the admitted Covid cases at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital are asymptomatic. “Some cases may be mildly symptomatic but we have seen that a greater percentage of the hostilized Covid cases are asymptomatic this time,” he said.
During the first wave, quarantine centres were a big relief for those who didn’t have adequate home isolation facilities. An estimated 30-40% of the active cases are currently under hospitalization in Assam, while only 5% of them are on oxygen support, health officials said.
Around 60% of the total active cases are in home isolation at present but many were hospitalized for dearth of proper isolation facilities at home. “Home isolation is being allowed in most cases as per the wish of patients,” director of medical education, Dr Anup Kumar Barman, said.
Barman said the Covid situation remains ‘scary’ to some extent in Assam though the rate of infection remains lower than many other states of the country. “In April we lost around 22 patients due to Covid. The corresponding figure was 13 in March,” he added, expressing worry over the sudden deterioration in the health of Covid patients. “We have seen how fast their condition deteriorates. Within two to three days some Covid patients died after their health parameters started deteriorating,” Barman said.
Health experts are speculating that like the first wave when the northeast got most positive cases around a couple of months after the situation turned alarming in states like Delhi, this time the situation may peak around May-June.
“Speculations are being made based on the trends last year, when a serious rise in Covid cases was detected in and around June in Assam,” a health source said, cautioning that a possible exodus of migrant workers towards the northeast may turn the situation challenging in Assam, which is the gateway to the region.
A senior health official said that talks have started to revamp the quarantine facilities so asymptomatic cases can be shifted there. The makeshift outdoor arrangements were dismantled after the dip in cases. But the surge in new Covid cases has compelled the health authorities to mull over the idea of making the quarantine facilities operational in the state again.
“There are many permanent assets like stadiums and other government buildings, which can soon be announced as quarantine facilities for timely observation of Covid patients. The idea is to keep the hospitals free of asymptomatic Covid patients, as much as possible,” the official said.