'There has been no significant increase in the number of fatalities.'
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope denies that the number of fatalities in Maharashtra are on an upswing compared to recoveries of patients infected by coronavirus.
"There has been no significant increase in the number of fatalities," Tope tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.
"Most of these fatalities have occurred only in patients having serious co-morbidities and most of who were brought to hospitals only when their health condition deteriorated," the minister says.
"Many of these fatalities have occurred in people who hid their condition for quite some time and were rushed to the hospitals only at the last minute," the health minister adds.
"How can you say that fatalities have been increasing when the mortality rate has come down to 5% from 7%?" Tope asks.
"The recovery rate too has improved to 12%," asserts the minister. "More than 550 people have recovered from coronavirus and discharged."
The increase in doubling of COVID-19 positive patients in Maharashtra has slowed down from 5 to 7-and-a-half days, the minister says.
Of the over 4,666 positive cases in Maharashtra, Mumbai, declared a red zone because of the severe death toll, tops with 3,000 cases. Pune, also a red zone, has over 600 positive cases.
The two cities respectively have recorded 139 and 49 deaths respectively so far out of the 223 deaths in the state (as on April 20). The all-India figure for COVID-19 fatalities stands at 590 (as on April 20).
Discussing the Inter Ministerial Central Teams, the Centre has assigned to assess the implementation of the lockdown guidelines issued by the Union government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Tope says, "Two teams have reached Mumbai and Pune, but I have still not met them."
Asked about speculation that the Union government is planning to hand over serious hotspots like Mumbai, Pune in Maharashtra and other cities in Rajasthan, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh to the army, Tope insists that this speculation is far-fetched.
"This is all hearsay. Let's see. This will be decided only after a thorough assessment of the situation (in Mumbai and Pune) on the ground," says Tope.
An IMCT team headed by Manoj Joshi, additional secretary, ministry of food processing industries, has reached Mumbai. A team headed by Sanjay Malhotra, additional secretary, ministry of power, will assess the lockdown in Pune.
We have completed 76,000 tests in Maharashtra till date and going forward we plan to do more of these tests (to detect COVID-19 positive patients)," says Minister Tope.
"Every day we are doing 5,500 to 6,000 tests, 80 per cent of which are being conducted in Pune and Mumbai. The rest of the state is relatively much better placed than these two cities."