A pandemic waiting to happen: Covid in rural India

Driver bhaiya lives in a very small village in Maharashtra. He recently lost his pregnant sister to Covid. He is, however, convinced that the reason is the local ghost- the villagers are sure that since she went out after 11 PM, she must have seen the ghost. Her death is justified, according to them. While this story may be difficult to digest this, it actually happened in a first-degree connection.

Lack of awareness, is however, just one of the reasons for the climbing covid cases in rural India. The second wave of Covid in India is fast spreading to rural districts, with nearly half the cases coming from rural areas. Most of these areas lack the necessary infrastructure to tackle the pandemic. It is also safe to assume that these numbers are under-reported.

Nearly half of the cases are coming from rural India

The second wave of Covid in India is fast spreading to rural districts, with nearly half the cases coming from rural India. Most of these areas lack the necessary infrastructure to tackle the pandemic. It is also safe to assume that these numbers are under-reported.

The share of rural districts in Covid cases is surging again, with over 48% of the cases coming from rural areas in May.

533 out of the country’s 700-plus districts are now reporting a test positivity rate of more than 10 per cent.

It is also important to understand that this is different from the first wave in the country. The intensity of the virus in the first wave was low. Fewer people needed oxygen support and ventilators. Moreover, the central government had imposed a strict lockdown. That helped in isolating the villages from the metro cities.

However, treating patients infected with the new variant of Covid needs medical infrastructure to survive. Be it oxygen cylinders, injections, or ventilators. In the second wave, 15% of all deaths have been from rural areas.

The situation gets compounded by the fact that most of the medical infrastructure is in the urban areas, where critical patients from the rural areas are heading to in the hope of finding treatment. Of the 819 Covid treatment centres, only 69 are located in the rural areas. Of the total 21,637 isolation beds in the state, only 3,039 are in the rural areas. That is 8–14% of resources for over 65% of the population.

With the lifted restrictions, more daily wage workers need to leave their houses, often not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing, given the type of work they have to undertake.

Vaccination inequality

While rural workers have to bear the brunt of the second wave, without having the luxury of working from home, they also face the worse end of the stick in vaccinations. Most workers do not have access to or are not well equipped with the use of laptops and mobile applications to book the very limited vaccine slots.

In some areas such as Bangalore, the privileged population is finding loopholes by booking slots in Rural Bangalore, taking away resources from those who need it the most.

Moreover, with telegram groups and Paytm APIs, the elite get an even better chance of getting a vaccine faster and from the comfort of their homes. It doesn’t help that the interface is only in English.

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