Pregnancy and Pandemic

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IN recent days, there have been fears of a deeper community transmission in Kashmir. One indicator for this is the sharp spike in number of Covid-19 positive pregnant women. On June 8 Kashmir reported 620 new coronavirus cases, highest since the lockdown began on March 25. Among the cases were 51 pregnant women. This has taken their total number to 240. Such sharp spike in the number of Covid-19 positive pregnant women has taken the health authorities by surprise. They see it as one of the clearest indicators of the community transmission of the Coronavirus in Kashmir Valley. It is true the government has been specifically testing pregnant women, so more of their cases are coming to light.

In early May, Jammu and Kashmir Government had made COVID-19 testing of all pregnant women mandatory, after a local court took suo motu cognisance of the deaths of two pregnant women in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Following the court’s intervention, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole, had directed the Health authorities “to devise a birth plan for the pregnant women so that they could be screened for COVID-19 well in time”. Thereafter it was made mandatory for the pregnant women to be tested at least a week ahead of their delivery. But the authorities were surprised when not only the pregnant women turned out Covid-19 positive but their numbers kept steadily rising. In recent days things have become much worse. In the first four days of June, 70 pregnant women were diagnosed as Covid-19 positive. Most of the positive cases of pregnant women– around 79 – are from South Kashmir’s Anantnag district which also tops the list of the cases in the union territory with around 400 cases. Kulgam, another South Kashmir district follows with around 50 positive cases of pregnant women.

The pregnant women are not picked up for testing as part of the regular testing regime that involves contact tracing of the Covid-19 positive patients. They come from general masses and their examination therefore falls into the category of random testing of the healthy population. Most of these pregnant women have no travel or contact history. Doctors are now advising pregnant women to avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers. They also stress the need for a dedicated help lines for pregnant women in each district where doctors are available on call to address the health-related queries of these women. A doctor on call will obviate the need for these women to visit health facilities which can be a source of infection.

Meanwhile, fresh coronavirus cases are growing exponentially in Kashmir Valley with the daily caseload now growing around 100 – 200 daily. Total number of deaths from the coronavirus contagion is now over 40. This has forced the administration to declare all districts in Kashmir Valley except Ganderbal and Bandipora as red zones ahead of issuance of new guidelines for easing out the corona lockdown. But to fight the community transmission the government needs to undertake some creative measures rather than go for another lockdown. It has to take steps to strictly enforce social distancing while people go ahead with their daily lives. Government has done so with Covid-19 positive pregnant women by deciding to set up separate hospitals for them in all the ten districts of the Valley.

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