Covid-19 Outbreak in Rural Areas Forces Odisha To Extend Lockdown?

Among the most worrying aspects of the second wave of Covid-19 is its rural penetration. Unlike the first wave, the virus has caused significant damage in the hinterlands of Odisha this time around. The State health department says villages have contributed 57% of the positive cases this month. Until March 2021, this number was negligible.

As per the health department, rural areas have witnessed a steady increase in Covid-19 infections in the last two months. In April, rural Odisha accounted for 51% of the total infections – around 50,000 of the 1 lakh new cases. However, in May, this number has seen a jump as 57% of the 1.78 lakh new infections were reported from the villages. This data is particularly worrying as over 80% of Odisha’s total population live in villages.

To combat the threat of the second wave, Odisha, like many other states, today announced an extension of the lockdown until June 1. In the official order, the State reiterated that the primary aim is to restrict the movement of people and not goods and goods carriers.

There will be no restriction on the movement of people or vehicles to and from Covid-19 testing, vaccination centres. Additionally, agriculture and industrial activity will not face any disruption due to the lockdown. Weekend shutdowns will remain in place with further restrictions imposed on shops and commercial establishments except for medicine stores.

The extension of the lockdown despite CM Naveen Patnaik’s belief that such restrictions should only be imposed as a last resort perhaps points at damage control in rural areas. At this point, it is imperative that all resources work towards containing the spread of the deadly virus in the remote districts. One of the ways Odisha aims to achieve this is by involving Gram Panchayats, Sarpanchs and Gaon Kalyan Samitis – encouraging them to take necessary measures at the local level.

Notably, the CM has been calling for ‘community involvement’ and believes the virus can only be defeated through a collective effort.

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