A close-knit society, negligence towards COVID-19 appropriate behaviour (CAB) and presence of the highly contagious Delta variant have resulted in a significant increase in the transmission of coronavirus infections in Mizoram, recent studies have revealed. The state registered a sustained rise in COVID-19 cases since April this year and over 1,000 single-day cases were reported several times. Mizoram has only one dedicated COVID-19 hospital, Zoram Medical College (ZMC), and one laboratory for conducting RT-PCR tests.
According to state nodal officer and official spokesperson on COVID-19 Dr Pachuau Lalmalsawma, a recent study conducted by experts in the northeastern state has revealed that a close-knit Mizo society wherein casual visit to relatives, friends, and neighbours or dining together within the family circle or with others is a common or regular practice even during lockdown has resulted in high transmission of the infection.
Another study conducted by two members of a Central team recently also attributed the rise in COVID-19 cases to the close-knit society and non-compliance with coronavirus-related public health measures in Mizoram. Chairman of Medical Operational Team on COVID-19 Dr ZR Thiamsanga said a recent study conducted by his team among at least 10,000 people showed low transmission among people, who strictly followed CAB, while those who did not abide by the protocol were found to contract the virus more.
Both Pachuau and Thiamsanga said the presence of new variants of COVID-19 like Delta and Delta plus has also given rise to widespread community transmission as these variants are highly contagious. If highly transmissible COVID-19 variants are already present, it is clear that transmission rate will be high or vast in a close-knit society, Thiamsanga, who is also a legislator from Champhai North, told PTI.
The state has so far reported 510 cases of new COVID-19 variants, including three Delta Plus and one each of Alpha and Eta variants. Dr Vanlalsiama Chhangte, Managing Director of a private hospital in Aizawl, also attributed the high transmissibility of coronavirus in Mizoram to a close-knit society but said lack of natural immunity or antibody among people could have been one of the reasons behind the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
He suggested aggressive vaccination and giving priority to the diagnosis of the high-risk group and asymptomatic patients for early treatment besides ramping up health facilities, including setting up laboratories for conducting RT-PCR tests and Intensive Care Units. Pachuau attributed the sustained rise in daily COVID-19 cases to mass sample tests, aggressive contact tracing, and screening of high-risk groups or suspected persons.
He said that local volunteers and medical teams are actively involved in contact tracing. Despite massive efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the rising number of coronavirus cases is of great concern and it is not controllable as of now because the pandemic has extensively spread among the community, Thiamsanga said. However, he claimed that the state has not completely failed in COVID-19 management because it still manages to maintain a low casualty rate. With the COVID-19 death toll at 268, the death rate in Mizoram stood at 0.32 per cent on Wednesday.
He attributed early diagnosis and treatment and the pro-active role of medical teams to the low fatality rate despite poor health infrastructure. Meanwhile, opposition parties have alleged that the rising number of coronavirus cases was due to the usage of the Rapid Antigen Test as the main tool for diagnosis, which gave many false-negative results resulting in the spread of COVID-19 by positive carriers.
Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) leader and MLA Lalduhoma said that the average proportion of samples tested through RT-PCR facility during June to August was a meagre 22.66 per cent against 70.89 per cent done by Rapid Antigen Test. Besides the lone dedicated COVID-19 hospital, there are 18 Dedicated COVID-19 Health Centres (DCHCs), 69 state-run COVID-19 Care Centres (CCCs), seven CCCs run by forces and 417 Community COVID-19 Care Centres (CCCCs) run by local people in the state. There are also two paid CCCs in Aizawl. The northeastern state on Wednesday reported 1,355 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the state’s tally to 82,819.
As many as 67,184 people have recovered from the infection taking the total recovery rate to 81.12 per cent. Of the 268 people who died of COVID-19, more than 80 per cent had comorbidities, according to officials.
The state has tested over 10.34 lakh samples for COVID-19 to date.