The Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) has witnessed an exponential surge in the number of Covid-19 cases this month. Around 1500 cases have been recorded between March and July, of which more than 1100 have been found this single month so far. It is learnt that five cases had been reported in March, but the number had gone down to one in April, while it went up eight in May.

“The number of cases was very low throughout the lockdown period, but it demonstrated a rising trend from June, while there were 342 cases in the SMC area last month. There is an abnormal spike of cases in July, and figures show more than a threefold rise in the month. Though there are still few days left for the month to end, 942 cases have already been recorded until 23 July,” sources said.

According to health department sources, 26 cases were reported on 24 July, and 101 cases on 25 July, while the number stood at 65 today. A total of 1298 cases were recorded in all the 47 wards of the SMC until 23 July. However, the civic body is in a tizzy as officials are finding it difficult to trace the addresses of around 133 persons infected with the virus.

On the other hand, a section of public health experts is of the opinion that community transmission has presumably started in Siliguri. Earlier, the administration had stressed on area-wise containment to stop the spread, and enforcing areawise lockdown in nine SMC wards, where most of the cases were reported from 9 July.

Later, a complete lockdown has been declared in the SMC area from 16 July. Darjeeling District Magistrate S Poonambalam has said that the administration has stressed on management and coordination activities, as a maximum number of Covid- 19 cases in the district had been found in the SMC area.

“We have observed that the cases started rising from the ‘unlock’ period towards the beginning of June with increased movement of people. In many cases, the source of infection or infected persons could not be traced. The situation here indicates community spread,” a public health expert said.

Public health expert Prof Abhijit Chowdhury, who has been in the forefront of Covid- 19 management in West Bengal, had observed that Covid-19 cases witnessed a sharp rise in the state, including Siliguri, during the ‘unlock’ phase. Prof Chowdhury had also said not using masks and flouting the social distancing norm may have contributed to the spike. A reputed journal, Economic and Political Weekly, in its editorial on 13 June, had said that unlocking without a counter-health strategy in place would be at the risk of infections rising at an alarming rate.

“But, a prolonged lockdown would be at the risk of huge unemployment for a long period, coupled with distress-driven loss of lives and livelihoods,” it said. Sources said that till 23 July, the highest number of cases was recorded in Ward 46 (109), while the lowest case (1) in Ward 23.

Ward-wise tally

According to data available for other wards, till this period, eight cases have been reported in Ward 1, 50 in ward 2, 15 in ward 3, 59 cases in ward 4, 48 cases in ward 5, 10 cases in ward 6, 20 in ward 7, 10 cases in ward 8, 45 cases in ward 9, 32 in ward 10, 13 in ward 11, four in ward 12, 18 in ward 13, 26 cases in ward 14, 19 cases in Ward 15, six cases in ward 16, 25 cases in ward 17, 19 in ward 18, six in ward 19, 17 in ward 20, three in ward 21, eight in ward 22, nine in ward 24, 18 cases in ward 25, 12 cases in ward 26, 33 in ward 27, 31 cases in ward 28, 13 in ward 29, 30 in ward 30, 31 in ward 31 , 14 cases in ward 32, 14 cases in ward 33, 25 in ward 34, 37 cases in ward 35, 23 in ward 36, 30 in ward 37, 41 cases in ward 38, 68 cases in ward 39, 37 in ward 40, 31 in ward 41, 25 in ward 42, 22 in ward 43, 13 in ward 44, 18 cases in ward 45 and 18 cases in ward 47.