Covid-19: The curious case of Odisha and its readiness


India, like most other countries is experiencing the heat due to the widespread outbreak of coronavirus, while eastern India is bearing a somewhat less impact. The eastern coastal state of Odisha had fewer cases initially, compared to its other peers until the state’s migrant workers started returning. The total cases showed a sudden rise at the starting of May, 2020. However, Odisha’s rich experience in managing natural calamities being a cyclone-prone state paid off. Despite higher infection numbers, the recovery rate of the state seems satisfactory at nearly 50%. It also fares well as far as number of tests per  positive case is concerned. Below is a detailed analysis of Odisha’s tryst with coronavirus pandemic and how it is leading the fight.

The rosy initial trend

A few days before the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, declared nation-wide lockdown, Odisha had witnessed its first case on March 16, 2020. The first few cases were all linked to either foreign travel or single source from New Delhi. At the onset of April, 2020, the number of cases started to pick up pace. Migrant workers from the neighbouring state- West Bengal, became a headache for the administration.

A gradual rise in trajectory of the number of total Covid-19 cases in Odisha

The workers from West Bengal travelled to their home towns daring the lockdown, and this pushed the tally in Odisha to nearly 150 cases by the end of April, 2020. Most of the cases were identified quickly, and many villages in coastal Odisha were turned into containment zones. All these steps worked up to a certain extent until the major issue arrived in the following month. 

The arrival of migrants made the wound wide

Being an industrially backward state, Odisha lacks adequate employment opportunities. Therefore, it witnesses one of the highest outflux of its workforce to other states like Gujrat, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

As the nation-wide lockdown has impacted the country's business ecosystem, migrants were left to defend themselves without any work or basic necessities. Their urge to return to their home states increased as days passed by.

The government of Odisha took required steps to bring its people from distant lands and arranged for 21 days of institutional quarantine facilities. But, little did it think about the number of infected among migrant workers. The initial few days of May,2020 we see a sudden spike in number of confirmed cases as it rose from 154 on May 1, 2020 to 737 by May 15, 2020. Eventually, Odisha's status against the national average on doubling time started to deteriorate.

A comparsion between India's and Odisha's doubling time

Even the cases per million figures started inflating. Over the last 20 days, Odisha has gone up from 5 cases per million to 36 cases per million, whereas the national average rests above 90.

Odisha's cases per million population stands much below the national figure

Concern for the state started to increase when a few cases emerged out of a densely populated area in Sundargarh district that had not recorded any cases before. However, it is safe to say that the government’s reactiveness in imposing a complete shutdown along with the containment measures worked positively in minimizing further spread in this region.

Not everything looks so gloomy 

Despite the rising number of new infections, Odisha is emerging as a role model as far as Health Governance is concerned. Most of its cases come from institutional quarantine facilities, and the states' recovery rate is impressive. As per the latest data, nearly 50% of present cases have been recovered over the last two months.

No amount of stress on the need for testing seems adequate. Yet, Odisha’s position with respect to testing ratio seems impressive. The test per positive case  stands at 86 which is higher than India's 21 tests per positive case as on May 27, 2020.

Odisha’s preparedness to tackle the COVID-19 challenge has received accolades nationally. It has set up 34 COVID hospitals with almost 5500 beds and 296 ICUs. Currently, it is rendering testing facilities in 11 places across the state. (source) It is now apparent that there is no room for complacency in the fight with the unseen enemy. As most migrant workers have returned to the state, Odisha may see some respite from the increasing numbers of infections. With the current rate of recovery, Odisha may soon be back to normalcy if it continues to confront the situation with the same vigour. 

Report written by


Amit Parhi