The Centre on Saturday came up with a five-point plan to tackle the surging cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in 12 states and Union territories, including Maharashtra, West Bengal and Delhi. Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a high-level meeting with additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries and secretaries of 12 states and municipal commissioners and district collectors of 46 districts most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Representatives of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Punjab and Bihar attended the meeting, according to a release issued by the Union ministry of health and family welfare. NITI Aayog member VK Paul was also present during the meeting.
India in March saw the steepest rise in weekly infections and fatalities since May 2020, the release read, adding that the 46 participant districts contributed 71 per cent of the cases and 69 per cent of the deaths this month. “Of total 36 districts in Maharashtra, 25 are most affected that account for 59.8% of the cases reported in the country during the past one week,” it said.
Here is the five-fold strategy laid out in the meeting:
1. The strategy includes increasing testing at an exponential rate, with a higher share of RT PCR tests–more than 70 per cent of total testing should be done via this method. “Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to be mostly deployed as a screening tool in flushing out cluster cases from densely populated areas,” the release read.
2. Effective isolation and contact tracing of those infected was also advised. An average of 30 close contacts of those infected should be traced, tested and isolated in the first 72 hours.
3. Re-invigoration of public and private healthcare resources was stressed upon. Infrastructure should be upgraded and the healthcare workers should be ‘re-energised’ to minimise complacency and fatigue. A targeted approach to reducing the mortality rate and the number of deaths should be implemented, the release said.
4. Attention should be paid to ensuring Covid-19 appropriate behaviour at all times, especially in crowded places like markets, inter-state bus stands, schools, colleges, railway stations etc. To ensure this, public awareness campaigns with the active participation of local community leaders, religious heads and other influencers should be organised. The introduction of heavy fines in case of failure to adhere to norms should also be made, the release said.
5. There is a need for a targeted approach to vaccination in districts reporting large numbers, the release said. “States asked to focus on universalisation of vaccination in the specified priority population age groups as an aid to containment strategy in districts where maximum cases are being reported. It was reiterated that there is no shortage of vaccines,” it added.