Yunus Y. Lasania and Nihad Amani
Hyderabad: Even as the Telangana is reporting about 3000 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases per day, the situation in Hyderabad has seemingly been better given that only about 15% of the total daily cases are from the city. However, back-to-back religious gatherings in the city during Muharram and Ganesh Chaturthi have raised a cause for concern, as it may once again result in the COVID-19 cases going up.
On 30 August, at least a few thousand people gathered in Hyderabad’s old city for annual historic ‘Bibi Ka Alam’ Muharram procession, while a similar number of people congregated in and around the Tank Bund to participate in Khairatabad Ganesh’s immersion on September 1 (Tuesday). While the religious fervour was definitely lesser this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it nonetheless could have been avoided.
On Wednesday, Telangana reported 2,892 new cases, of which 477 (16.49%) were from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) area. The numbers over the past week have been more or less the same. However, it may be noted that the daily number of COVID-19 cases in the state have gone up considerably, as it was about 2,000 per day a few weeks ago.
A senior doctor working in a government hospital said that cases in Hyderabad are definitely going to increase, given how many people came on the streets for religious gatherings barely covered their faces with masks, or took other measures to stay sanitized. “A family member of mine held a house warming ceremony, and out of 50 people, 37 were infected with COVID-19. So obviously, we will see a spike of cases in Hyderabad in a few weeks,” the doctor told siasat.com
So far, till September 2, the total number of COVID-19 cases reported in the state were1.27 lakh of which 95,162 people have recovered, while 836 others succumbed to the virus. The public gatherings for both Muharram and Ganesh Chaturthi took place in spite of the police and state government initially stating that permission would not be given for the same.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, 50% or more of COVID-19 cases in Telangana were from Hyderabad, particularly in the old city. However, that fell to about 20-30% by July, even as cases in other districts like Warangal (Urban), Medchal-Malkajgiri and Ranga Reddy began witnessing an increase in cases.
However, it seems that at least a section of people in Hyderabad, regardless of religion, are less bothered about their safety. Rakesh Mishra, director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), said that cases in Hyderabad are now likely to go up. “Surely the cases will increase. If these gatherings were done while following guidelines, then cases would not increase,” he opined.
Mishra pointed out that the government has already sensitised people on COVID-19, that religious heads should also do the same. “Increase of cases (in Telangana) shows how active people have become and that corona has been forgotten now. We can still live without religious and social gatherings for the next six months,” he added.