The first wave of COVID-19 barely hit the state of Mizoram, and at the end of 2020, the state had less than a dozen deaths. However, the same cannot be said about the second wave. It hit the state much harder, exposed its not-so-great public health system, and many would argue, never subsided.

Mizoram continues to see a COVID wave, and researchers are now beginning to understand why this is the case in a state with barely 1 million population.

A close-knit society and negligence to Covid-19 Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) coupled with the widespread presence of highly transmissible Covid-19 variant like Delta variant has resulted in an exponential increase of Covid-19 transmission in Mizoram, studies revealed.

The state has registered a sustained rise in Covid-19 cases since April this year and over 1,000 cases were reported in a single-day for several times, which is of great concern in a tiny state like Mizoram.

But while the state may not have the best health facilities, resources or connectivity, the spike in cases has not necessarily meant a spike in fatalities, thankfully. Why? Mizoram’s death rate is fluctuating between 0.32 and 0.36 per cent, which is less than the national average of 1.32 per cent.

According to state nodal officer and official spokesperson on Covid-19 Dr Pachuau Lalmalsawma, the recent study conducted by experts in the 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 Covid-19 transmission.

Similarly, the study conducted by two members of a Central team recently has also attributed close-knit society and negligence of Covid-19 Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) to increase in Covid-19 transmission, he said.

“Although regimented, a Mizo society is very close-knit where a visit to relatives, friends and neighbours and dining with friends or non-family members or group interaction for plain discussion is inherent. This close-knit culture has contributed towards the widespread transmission of Covid-19,” Pachuau said.

Although some have strictly adhered to CAB, many paid negligence to it, which resulted in community spread, he added.

State Medical Operational Team on COVID-19 chairman Dr ZR Thiamsanga told EastMojo that the recent study and assessment conducted among at least 10,000 people showed that Covid-19 hardly transmitted among people who strictly followed CAB, but a high number of Covid-19 cases were found among those who neglected it.

Both Pachuau and Thiamsanga said the presence of new Covid-19 variants like Delta and Delta plus has also given rise to widespread community transmission in Mizoram, as these variants are known to be 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, said. The state has so far reported 510 cases of new Covid-19 variants, including 3 Delta Plus and one each of Alpha and Eta variants.

Dr Vanlalsiama Chhangte, Managing Director of Ebenezer Medical Centre, a private hospital in Aizawl also attributed the high transmission to close-knit society but said “lack of natural immunity or antibody among people” could have been one of the reasons behind rising Covid-19 cases.

He said that Mizoram had successfully dealt with Covid-19 and only a few have exposure to Covid-19 during the first wave, which means natural antibody is absent in a large section of the population.

He suggested aggressive vaccination and giving priority to the diagnosis of the high-risk group and asymptomatic for early and better treatment besides ramping up health facilities, including RT-PCR laboratories 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 are actively involved in contact tracing besides the medical team.

Thiamsanga said that the rising Covid-19 case despite massive efforts to curtail it is of great concern and it is not controllable as of now because the pandemic has extensively spread through the community.

He, however, claimed that the state has not completely failed in Covid-19 management because it still manages to maintain a low casualty rate. With 268 tolls, the death rate on Wednesday stood at 0.32 per cent.

He attributed early diagnosis and treatment and the pro-active role of the medical team to the low fatality rate despite poor health infrastructures. Meanwhile, opposition parties have alleged that the rising Covid-19 cases were due to the usage of Rapid Antigen Test as the main basis for Covid-19 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 of Rapid Antigen Test.

Mizoram now has only one dedicated Covid-19 hospital- Zoram Medical College (ZMC) with 341 beds including 34 beds in ICU, 18 Dedicated Covid-19 Health Centres (DCHCs), 69 state-run Covid-19 Care Centres (CCCs), 7 CCCs run by forces and 417 Community Covid-19 Care Centres (CCCCs) run by local people.

Besides, there are two paid CCCs in Aizawl. 25 bedded Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), 10 bedded each of Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and High Dependency Unit (HDU) are also being installed at ZMC. The state has only one RT-PCR laboratory at ZMC and more than 20 TrueNat facilities have been installed across all 11 districts.

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 Covid-19 victims, more than 80 per cent had comorbidities, according to officials.

The state has tested more than 10.34 lakh samples for Covid-19 to date. With over 6.72 lakh total vaccination, about 87 per cent of eligible beneficiaries have been administered the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to National Health Mission Director Dr Eric Zomawia.

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