Situation is particularly worrying in Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh
The current COVID-19 case growth rate of 6.8% in March 2021 has surpassed the previous record of 5.5% (June 2020), noted a release issued by the Central government following a meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Friday.
The government has also identified 11 States/UTs as areas of grave concern — Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Haryana. These States/UTs have been reporting a surge in daily cases and daily mortality because of COVID-19 in the last two weeks. The meeting was to review and discuss the COVID-19 management and response strategy.
“Another worrisome aspect pointed out at the meeting was that Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities along with peri-urban areas have recorded a surge in COVID-19 cases. The spread of infection to the rural areas with weak health infrastructure would overwhelm the local administration,”’ noted the release.
The meeting saw the participation of Chief Secretaries, Director Generals of Police, Health Secretaries of all States/UTs, and other senior officials.
The Central government said that while the country was reporting about 97,000 daily new COVID-19 cases at the peak of the pandemic in September 2020, the country has now reached the critical figure of 81,000 daily new cases of COVID-19.
“The Cabinet Secretary has reiterated the need for stringent enforcement of containment and surveillance measures, in conjunction with ramping up vaccination and strict enforcement of COVID Appropriate Behaviour,” noted the release.
The States/UTs have been asked to increase testing continuously to ensure that positivity comes down to 5% or less than 5%, focus on ensuring RT-PCR tests (comprising 70% of total tests), and reduce waiting time of test results while using Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) as a screening test in densely populated areas and where fresh clusters were emerging.
The Centre has added that all symptomatic RAT negatives have to be compulsorily subjected to RT-PCR tests while ensuring effective and prompt isolation of those infected in institutional facilities (Covid Care Centres).
The release noted that States/UTs have been told to ensure that patients isolated at home are monitored daily and that 25 to 30 close contacts be traced for each infected person. “Tracing of close contacts and their isolation has to be done in 72 hours. Subsequent testing and follow up of all close contacts have to be carried out,” added the release.
States have also been asked to examine case fatality rate hospital-wise, devise appropriate strategy, and mitigate concerns regarding late admission in hospitals and non-adherence to National Clinical Management Protocol.
In an effort to minimise the daily fatalities, States have been advised to strengthen public and private healthcare resources and directed to increase the number of isolation beds, oxygen beds, ventilators/ICU beds as per requirement, plan for adequate oxygen supply, strengthen ambulance service, and reduce response time and refusal rate with regular monitoring by local administration, and ensure adequate number of contractual staff.
Meanwhile in an effort to saturate vaccination for priority age groups, the States and UTs have been directed to have a time-bound plan for 100% vaccination of eligible healthcare workers, frontline workers and eligible age groups.
“States/UTs in coordination with Health Ministry should ensure adequate vaccine doses while also doing a daily review of consumption from each Cold Chain Point at the State level, for required re-appropriation,” added the release.
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