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Five-point Strategy to Curb Covid Surge

Five-point Strategy to Curb Covid Surge

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NEW DELHI, Mar 27: As several states imposed additional curbs to check the surge of the Coronavirus cases across the country, the centre on Saturday came up with a five-point plan to tackle the situation more effectively.

A high-level meeting chaired by the union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan considered the surging cases in 12 states and union territories, including Maharashtra, West Bengal and Delhi. 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, and representatives of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Punjab and Bihar attended the meeting.  NITI Aayog member VK Paul was also present during the meeting, according to a spokesman of the union health ministry.

India in March saw the steepest rise in weekly infections and fatalities since May 2020. The 46 participant districts alone 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,” the spokesman said.

Among the five-fold strategy decided at the meeting was 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 spokesman said.

The meeting also underlined effective isolation and contact tracing of those infected. An average of 30 close contacts of those infected should be traced, tested and isolated in the first 72 hours.

Re-invigoration of public and private healthcare resources was also stressed upon at the meeting. 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 spokesman said.

It decided that 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.

It also stressed the need for intensifying the vaccination drive as one of the best ways to curb the surge. It said there was a need for a targeted approach to vaccination in districts reporting large numbers. “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 was no shortage of vaccines.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra, the worst-hit state by the pandemic, has planned a series of restrictive measures to bring the situation under control.

The Maharashtra government said on Saturday it would impose a night curfew from Sunday, which will begin at 8pm and end at 7am the next day across the state, and extended curbs, imposed as part of its Mission Begin Again initiative, till April 15. More than five people will not be allowed in any public place, including gardens and beaches, and violators will be fined.

It said violation of the restrictions would attract a fine of ₹1,000.

Cinema halls, malls, auditoriums and restaurants will remain closed from 8pm to 7am. Home delivery and takeaway from restaurants will be allowed during the period.

No social, cultural, political, religious gathering will be allowed. Auditorium and drama theatres should not be used for conducting such gatherings. It also banned gathering of more than 50 people during wedding ceremonies and not more than 20 people during last rites.

(Manas Dasgupta)

 

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