With 427 new cases, Sikkim records its highest spike yet

Summit Report

Gangtok, 19 Jan:

The third wave established itself as being much more contagious than the Delta variant in the peak of the second wave, when, with 427 new cases in the past 24 hours, Sikkim broke its eight month old record. The previous record was 420 cases recorded on 28 May, 2021.

While the absolute numbers are staggering, it is important to bear in mind that Omicron [let's accept it, this runaway spread has to be this latest variant even if not officially tested and verified] is staying true to its established track-record and causing proportionately fewer severe cases. Of course, the expansive vaccination achieved by Sikkim must also have contributed the lower severity. While 94.44% of the adult population is now double-vaccinated, nearly 60% of those aged between 15-18 have already taken their first dose of Covaxin.

That said, the authorities will be well advised to keep a close eye on the load on hospitals given that it is unlikely that infections have peaked in the State, and even though hospitalisations and severe cases might be lower in proportion, the sheer volume of infections could put the health infrastructure under some stress.

Today's 427 new cases, for instance, came at a test positivity rate of nearly 30% which suggests that there is still some way to go before the numbers start coming down. What cannot be overlooked either is that RT-PCR screening, usually taken by primary contacts and people who have developed symptoms, returned nearly 50% positivity rate today. 224 of the new cases were detected from RT-PCR screening of 446 samples at 50.22% test positivity rate.

The previous record of 420 new cases in a day had come nearly a month after the second wave had set in, and on 28 May, 2021, there were 3,794 active cases in Sikkim. Today's record comes barely a fortnight into the third wave [taking it as having begun on 04 Jan when daily cases broke the two-digit mark and increased exponentially from there on]. As of today, the State has 2,398 active cases.

On the severity quotient, while on 28 May last year, there were 235 Covid patients in hospital at a hospitalisation rate of 6.19% of all active cases, today, the proportion is much lower at 4.37% with 105 of the 2,398 Covid patients currently in hospital.

While these percentages don't count for much when it comes to people in distress and families worried for their wards in hospital, it should help to know that Sikkim is now much better prepared when it comes to healthcare infrastructure than it was when the second wave was at its peak.

At present, the State has 96 Covid ICU beds against the 31 it had in May last year. Of the 96 ICU beds, 48 are with ventilators, all of which are free at present; a relief to know that no patient is so serious as to require being put on ventilator support. Apart from this, Sikkim has 323 isolation beds, 223 of which have Oxygen support, available for Covid patients.

When it comes to the symptoms being presented by the Covid patients, of the 2,398 active cases, official data informs that nearly 99% [2,366] are either asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. 20 of the Covid-positive people have severe symptoms and 12, moderate.

Returning to today's figures, of the 427 new cases, 272 were registered in East District, 71 in West District, 75 in South and 09 in North District.

As per the Daily Report of Covid-19 in Sikkim released by the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme of Health Department Wednesday morning, these 427 new cases were detected in testing of 1,463 samples, 224 in RT-PCR screening of 446 samples, and 203 in rapid antigen testing of 1,014 samples. The tally of the confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Sikkim since testing began on 28 Feb, 2020, has now reached 35,730.

In the meantime, 163 more Covid patients were discharged from home isolation after making full recoveries to further improve the number of recovered cases to 32,434 giving the state a recovery rate of 92%.

Reassuringly, no new Covid deaths were reported in the State in the past 24 hours and the death toll continues to hold at 415.

Meanwhile, the number of active cases has swelled to 2,398, of whom 105 are currently admitted in hospital, 34 of whom were admitted in the past 24 hours. With seven under-18 year olds admitted in the past 24 hours, there are nine u-18's in hospital at present. The young, it must be pointed out, make rather quick recoveries and 10 of them were discharged from hospital in the past 24 hours. In the past two months, 116 under 18 year old Covid patients have been admitted in hospitals here and except the 9 currently in hospital, the rest have since been discharged.

23 of the Covid patients in hospital are currently admitted in ICU facilities, two of whom are u-18.

In the continuation of the Covid vaccination drive, 698 children aged between 15 to 18 received their first dose of Covaxin on Tuesday taking the total number of so vaccinated children to 24,229.

Meanwhile, 579 people in the 18+ category received Covishield jabs yesterday; 123 getting their first shot and 456 completed their vaccination schedule with the second dose.