Amid the surge in coronavirus cases, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Tuesday wrote to Chief Secretaries of all states and Union Territories seeking action at the district levels, including public health measures, focus on mortality reduction and 100 per cent saturation vaccination of priority age groups.
In the letter, he said that many districts are seeing clusters of cases emerging because of specific events and or places where crowding happens, or where large number of people are in close physical contact, coupled with lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Giving the states and UTs seven pointers for action at the district level, Bhushan asked those with a high-case load and fast growth of cases to ensure 100 per cent saturation vaccination of the priority age group of 45 year and above, in the coming two weeks.
States have also been asked to focus on mortality reduction and examine case fatality rate and its growth, identify localities and hospitals where deaths are high and analyse deaths to understand whether they were due to late detection or surveillance failure.
He also sought enforcement of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour using the Police Act, or powers under the Disaster Management Act. “Besides, elected representatives, local influencers, celebrities, religious leaders etc. should be roped in to ensure Covid appropriate behaviour,” he urged.
The fourth action to control the pandemic includes efficient implementation of “Test, Track, and Treat”, Bhushan said, noting that it remains the only proven strategy for control of transmission.
He also said that each district, irrespective of whether it is seeing a surge right now, or has a current low burden, should make an action plan with clear timelines and responsibilities, and including mapping of cases, reviewing sub area wise indicators like case positivity rate, rate of growth of cases, case fatality, doubling rate of cases on a real time basis. The RT-PCR tests must be more than 70 per cent, he added.
The action plan must also review the geographical spread of infection day on day, identify possible source or sources and an Emergency Operations Centre with a team to monitor the indicators, their growth and spread 24×7 should be set up.
The Health Secretary also stressed that individual actions, such as proper wearing of masks covering nose and mouth, maintaining six feet distance from others, and sanitising one’s hands frequently must be ensured.
Lastly, he asked the states and UTs to take public health measures by quarantining and testing individuals suspected to be positive including close contacts of positive persons, isolating all those who are positive and testing them.
Bhushan requested states and the UTs to disseminate the following points among all the districts during in-depth review meetings.
India recorded 56,211 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours taking the total tally to 1,20,95,855 on Tuesday. Six states — Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat — continue to report a surge in daily new cases.
This is the second peak. India had fought the first six months ago, recording a highest single-day spike of 93,617 cases on September 16 and the highest number of deaths (1,169) on September 15.
Bhushan rued that after having successfully brought down the number of new Covid cases from mid-September 2020 to February 2021, India is now witnessing a rapid rise in cases.
“You have been leading the effort of Covid Pandemic management with your teams so far. The current rise in cases is of concern and has the potential of overwhelming health care systems, unless checked right now,” he said in his letter.