Even as Indore in Madhya Pradesh continues to be among the country's most worrisome coronavirus hotpots, a city some 54 kilometres from here, Ujjain, is making health officials uneasy as the latter's death rate from the infection as on Sunday stood at a whopping 19 per cent, far higher than the 3.35 per cent national average.
Ujjain, famous for the Mahakal Temple and a city with seven lakh inhabitants, has seen 45 of 237 COVID-19 patients succumbing to the infection, the death rate being a shade below 19 per cent at 18.9 per cent, as per official data.
Among those who have died are a police inspector and a BJP corporator, leading to major political parties pointing out to the city's creaky health infrastructure, and the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government responding by shunting out the district collector and the superintendent of police.
The BJP corporator had even made social media videos of the poor medical care available at a private hospital here.
Speaking to PTI, new Ujjain Collector Ashish Singh said, "We are trying to bring down the death rate by improving health care facilities here. We have launched several measures to identify people infected with the virus and to quarantine them. We are hopeful the curve will flatten in a fortnight." Ujjain has no government medical college-cum-hospital (GMCH) and a private one - RD Gardi Medical College and Hospital, with 750 beds, has been designated as a COVID-19 facility.
A 100-bed hospital in Indore has also been earmarked to treat COVID-19 patients from Ujjain, officials said.
With local leaders from both the ruling BJP and Congress claiming the facilities and treatment at RD Gardi Hospital were below par, and several videos on this making the rounds of social media, the state government has placed Additional Collector Sujan Singh Rawat as nodal officer of the private facility.
"We are bettering facilities at RD Gardi Hospital and issues concerning doctors and staff have been resolved," Rawat said.
He said 70 per cent of the patients who died did so within 72 hours of admission in the hospital, suggesting that some of them may have been brought for treatment too late.
Most of the deceased in Ujjain also had comorbidities, mostly ailments of the heart and lungs, he added.
Initial coronavirus test reports also came in late which compounded the problem, some other health officials said.
Meanwhile, Vikas Sharma, a priest at Mahakal Temple, said prayers were being offered daily to ensure the virus outbreak comes to an end.