Sikkim’s second wave deaths go past 200 with four more Covid fatalities

After a day’s pause in Covid deaths, Sikkim recorded four more Covid fatalities in the past 24 hours, taking the Covid toll here to 337. The “Daily Report of Covid-19 in Sikkim” released by the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme of the Health Department covering Covid statistics for the past 24 hours as of 8AM Thursday morning informs that all four deaths were reported from STNM Hospital here.

The second wave has been brutal all over the country, and Sikkim has not been spared its impact. With these four deaths, Covid’s second wave has now claimed more than two hundred lives in the State.

This newspaper marks 22 April, 2021, as the start of the second wave in Sikkim since it was on this date that Covid deaths returned to the State after a nearly two-month pause. Covid deaths have been a regular feature since then, and the longest that the State has gone without any fatalities during the second wave has been three days.

In the 98 days that the second wave has been in Sikkim, there have been only 19 days without any Covid deaths. On average, Sikkim has lost 2.05 lives every day during the second wave which has claimed 201 lives, nearly 60% of all the lives lost to Covid here.

While the peak of the second wave in mid-May saw as many nine deaths in a day and upwards of 400 new cases, the situation has been less traumatic over the past two months. While Covid deaths have not ended, the numbers have come down. The last time that the State reported more than three deaths in a day, for instance, was on 06 June when five lives were lost to the virus.

The vaccination process has been strong in Sikkim, and as of today, 4.89 lakh people here have received the Covid vaccine, 1.47 lakh of whom have received both the doses. The above-18 age-group for whom vaccination is available has been nearly covered, and it is this which perhaps explains the drop in the number of fatalities and hospitalizations being seen in the State.

That said, every death is traumatic, and doctors have come on record often to explain that Covid patients have been showing up too late to hospitals. The only way people can be provided medical assistance in time is for testing to be more effectively deployed and positive cases identified in time and placed under professional observation before their condition worsens.

It is important for everyone to realize that it is only a handful, those with co-morbidities and/or high levels of exposure and falling oxygen levels, who will require dedicated medical attention and it is possible that Covid-death numbers can be brought down with more accurate testing and follow-up.

For instance, while 276 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours, there were only 14 more hospitalizations. This suggests that the number of Covid-positive people with severe symptoms is low in Sikkim. Of the 3,297 active Covid cases in the State, there are only 113 in hospital and the rest recovering at home or facility isolation since their symptoms are not too severe.

It is those in hospital and in ICU [13 at present], who could have benefitted even more if their infections had been detected earlier. Most Covid deaths in the State are being reported with 3-4 days of them testing positive, suggesting that people are not getting tested the moment they fear exposure, and are coming for testing only after their symptoms have become severe [this, at least in the case of most Covid deaths]. If policy could be worked in a way that encourages testing and does not make things inconvenient or disruptive, may be more people will choose to get screened in time.

Meanwhile, the 276 new cases were picked up from the screening of 1,715 samples on Wednesday giving the State a daily test positivity rate of 16%.

Sikkim’s count of confirmed cases of COVID-19 detected so far now stands at 26,132. Nearly 73% of this overall figure - 18,974 - was reported during the second wave alone. In that sense, the fatality rate has been lower in the second wave even if the absolute numbers have been high. While the first wave had a case fatality rate of 1.89% [130 deaths out of 6,846 cases], the CFR for the second wave works out to 1.05% [201 deaths out of 18,974 cases].

As for the day’s numbers, of the 276 new cases, 78 were registered in East District, 100 in West District, 97 in South District and 01 in North District.

On the other hand, Sikkim’s count of recovered cases further improved to 22,229 with the discharge of 90 more persons from home and facility isolation on Wednesday after they made full recoveries.