Centre asks union territories to ramp up testing; augment lab, hospital infrastructure

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New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) The Centre on Tuesday advised union territories to ramp up testing for COVID-19 and augment laboratory and hospital infrastructure to prepare for the next three weeks keeping in view the critical situation.

These were conveyed to top officials of the union territories at a review meeting by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.

After a detailed discussion on various issues relating to COVID, the Union home secretary asked the officials to maintain constant vigilance against the grave situation in union territories, according to an official statement.

It said strict enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour was stressed along with stricter enforcement of movement restrictions and prohibition of large gatherings, regulated timings for markets etc.

Bhalla advised the union territories to increase RT-PCR testing along with use of RAT for screening in clusters.

The central officials strongly recommended urgent review of clinical management.

Expressing concern over the worrying scenario, Member (Health) NITI Aayog V K Paul pointed out the criticality of the next three weeks for COVID response measures.

The UT administrators were advised to plan in advance for three weeks, the statement said.

At the meeting, the central government officials reviewed the COVID status, its management and response strategies with the chief secretaries of the union territories.

The home secretary pointed out the steep growth in number of cases all across the country.

From 20,000 cases on January 1, India has been registering almost 10 times more cases -- over 2,00,000 -- daily since April 15.

In last 11 days, new cases have almost doubled from 1.31 lakh reported on April 9 to 2.73 lakh on April 20.

Through a detailed and comprehensive presentation, the current trajectory of total new COVID-19 cases, weekly tests, weekly positivity rate, weekly new COVID cases, weekly number of deaths, and the status and proportion of RT-PCR tests and Rapid Antigen Tests in all the union territories were discussed.

The UTs shared their current efforts for containment and management of the the disease.

Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Lakshadweep pointed to the rise in cases due to large number of inbound travellers.

Lakshadweep has seen a sudden spike after April 14, primarily due to the travel of a large number of people to the mainland to shop for festive occasions.

Most UTs have imposed movement restrictions, including night curfew and curbs on intra-island movement in case of island UTs.

The Chandigarh administration informed that it was conducting door-to-door counselling for increased vaccination.

A total of 90 per cent of the patients are in home-isolation and are being monitored by mobile teams, it said.

The UT of Delhi discussed shortage of beds and the current efforts to augment this using central government infrastructure and support through the DRDO's recently operationalised COVID hospital, the statement said.

The Delhi government expressed gratitude for the timely support of the Union government for augmenting its hospital bed capacity during last year and this year, it said.

Their efforts to ramp up testing and reduce the turnaround time for the test results were also outlined.

A survey to promptly identify COVID-positive people should be taken up, Bhalla said.

He stressed on planning even the minutest details of COVID management.

For the UT of Ladakh, he recommended regulation of incoming labourers and supervised containment. Islands can be made large containment zones, he suggested.

The union home secretary assured of continued and full support of the government of India for all efforts of the UTs in containment and management of COVID-19.

The meeting, held through video-conference, was also attended by Balram Bhargava, Director General of the ICMR.

The director generals of police of all the UTs were also in attendance. PTI ACB IJT