Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the current Covid-19 situation of the country and interacted with the chief ministers of states and Union territories on Wednesday. The Union health ministry too on Wednesday presented a report assessing the situation between March 1 and March 15. What came up in both discussions is that there has been negligence in testing, tracking of cases, which has worsened the Covid-19 situation in the country. The states’ reliance on the rapid antigen test
37 per cent hike in Covid deaths, 150 per cent increase in cases in 70 districts
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said there has been a 43 per cent week-on-week increase in the number of daily cases. The death toll has also registered a 37 per cent week-on-week increase. A total of 70 districts across 16 states recorded a 150 per cent spike in new cases since March 1. These states include Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. Some districts have reported around a 200 per cent hike in the last 15 days.
Western and northern India most affected
Presenting the overall case graph of the last 15 days, the secretary noted that the rise of daily infections is concentrated in western and northern India.
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India’s current Covid-19 case positivity rate is 5 per cent and the weekly positivity rate is 3 per cent. But Maharashtra’s positivity rate is significantly higher than the national average. From the 11 per cent positivity rate a few weeks ago, it has now increased to 16 per cent. Punjab’s positivity rate has also doubled from 3.4 per cent to 6.8. These rates are worrying, the ministry said.
Laxity in testing, tracking
Unlike last year, when local administrations were rigorously following up with the close contacts of an infected person, now only family members are being tested. “Close contact are not family members. Close contacts are people with whom an infected person have interacted in the previous days,” Bhushan said adding that states have been asked to track, test and isolate at least 30 close contacts of an infected person within three days.
Vaccine wastage: Telangana, Andhra Pradesh top
According to health ministry data, Telangana’s vaccine wastage is 17 per cent, while Andhra Pradesh has wasted 11 per cent of the vaccines. Uttar Pradesh has also reported some vaccine wastage. “Vaccines are public health goods and hence they are to be optimally used. Vaccine wastage needs to be drastically reduced. Any reduction means you end up inoculating more people. That is the advice to states,” Bhushan said.
PM Modi too emphasized this point and said vaccine wastage can be reduced if the vaccines that have come before are used first.
70 per cent of tests should be RT-PCR
Citing the instances of Kerala, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, PM Modi said many states are primarily depending on rapid antigen tests. The ministry too quoted data of Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh where RT-PCR percentage is below 40 per cent and urged all states and UTs to take the number to 70 per cent.
Focus on small towns—referral systems
The second peak of the disease is mostly affecting tier-2, tier-3 cities, which indicates that villages need extra protection from the spread, PM Modi said in his meeting. “We need to pay special attention to referral systems and ambulance networks in small towns. The virus is being spread in a dispersed manner right now. This is because the whole country has opened up for travel, the number of people coming from abroad has also increased,” PM Modi said.
Several states have identified outbreak areas and imposed local lockdowns. PM Modi encouraged the district administrations to increase surveillance and not to relax the option of creating micro-containment zones under any circumstances. “The option of creating a micro containment zone should not be relaxed under any circumstances. The Pandemic Response Teams working in the districts can also go for a re-orientation of containment and surveillance SOPs,” he said.
No shortage of vaccine
Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said there is no vaccine shortage in the country. On being asked to comment on West Bengal seeking more vaccines from the Centre, Bhushan said, “I can’t comment on what a chief minister has said. But there is no shortage of vaccines. Every day we check our supplies to the states and what the states have utilised so far.”
The Covid-19 situation in some states is worrying, the health ministry has noted but PM Modi emphasised that there is no need to panic. “Our confidence should not become over-confidence, our success should not lead to carelessness. There is no need to push people into panic mode,” he said.