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More tests, vaccination: MHA devises five-step strategy to check Covid surge in UP, Chhattisgarh

A health worker takes swab samples from a passenger at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Railway Station, amid spike in Covid-19 cases, in Mumbai, Friday, April 16, 2021. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)

Uttar Pradesh has reported a growth rate of 19.25 per cent in daily new cases of Covid 19 with 46 districts in the state having crossed their reported highest cases in the last 30 days, a meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla was told on Friday. In Chhattisgarh, another badly affected state, the weekly case growth rate has been reported to be 6.2 per cent with 22 districts crossing their highest cases in the last 30 days.

In both states, it was observed, RT-PCR tests have decreased while Rapid Antigen Tests have increased.

The meeting, co-chaired by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, devised a five-fold strategy to combat the surge.

This includes significantly increasing testing in all districts with a minimum of 70 per cent RT-PCR tests and use of Rapid Antigen Tests as screening tests in densely populated areas as well as areas where fresh clusters are emerging; mandatorily subjecting those who have tested negative in Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to RT-PCR test; ramping up effective and timely tracing, containment and surveillance activities to curb the chain of transmission, and strict implementation of containment measures; effectively following the protocol of clinical care, treatment and supported home/facility care; strict and effective enforcement of COVID safe behaviour including strict limitation of unnecessary movement of people and crowds; and time-bound plan of 100 per cent vaccination of eligible population groups, especially in the high-focus districts.

The meeting was informed that Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh along with Maharashtra are the only three states in the country which have more than one lakh active cases.

“Both Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh are reporting a very high number of daily new COVID19 cases and deaths. Chhattisgarh has reported nearly 6.2 per cent increase in weekly new COVID cases based on a 7-day moving average. In the last two weeks, the state has seen almost 131 per cent increase in weekly new cases. As many as 22 districts in Chhattisgarh have crossed their reported highest cases in the last 30 days; Raipur, Durg, Rajnandgaon and Bilaspur are the most-affected districts. In contrast to the week 17th-23rd March 2021, in the week of 7th-13thApril 2021, RT-PCR tests have decreased to 28 per cent (from 34 per cent) while the Antigen Tests have increased to 62 per cent (from 53 per cent),” a home ministry statement said.

About UP, the statement said “Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi and Prayagraj are the most affected districts. In contrast to the week 17th-23rd March 2021, in the week of 7th-13th April 2021, RT-PCR tests have decreased to 46 per cent (from 48 per cent) while Antigen tests have increased to 53 per cent (from 51 per cent ).”

Others present in the meeting included Dr V K Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog; Dr Balram Bhargava, DG ICMR; Dr (Prof) Sunil Kumar, DGHS; and chief secretaries, health secretaries and police chiefs of both states.

“The reported shortage of hospital infrastructure such as ICU and oxygen supported beds in hospitals resulting in difficulty to the public in easily accessing critical healthcare services were discussed in comprehensive detail, requiring an urgent ramping up of hospital infrastructure. The states were advised to increase the number of isolation beds, oxygen beds, ventilators/ICU beds, ambulance fleet as per requirement; plan for adequate oxygen supply; and focus on mortality reduction by early identification of positive cases and adherence to national treatment protocol,” the MHA statement said.

The Union Health Secretary informed that the states’ demand for oxygen cylinders (including 10 litre cylinders and 45 litre jumbo cylinders) and demand for additional ventilators (having high flow nasal canula) will be met very soon.

“The Union Government has mapped the manufacturing sources of oxygen with the 12 states reporting the highest number of daily new cases. The states have been advised to increase dedicated COVID19 beds and use the available buildings in the hospital campus (including AIIMS) for creation of additional COVID19 dedicated wards. The states were also advised to make use of the hospitals of Union Ministries and PSUs for treating COVID-19 patients,” the statement said.

The states were also advised deployment of volunteers of NSS, NYK, women Self Help Groups (SHGs), and hiring retired doctors/paramedics etc., on contracts under NHM funds to augment manpower for both vaccination and contact tracing and treating.

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