New Delhi, Sep 8 (PTI) Amid rise in daily count of coronavirus cases, the Centre on Tuesday said it is getting complaints from state governments about people becoming lax in taking precautions and asserted that public health measures like social distancing and wearing masks remain key to slowing the pandemic.
Addressing a press briefing, NITI Aayog member V K Paul, who also heads the national task force on COVID-19, stressed on the importance of testing in containing the pandemic and reducing mortality.
'We should create an environment where no one is afraid of testing. It is dangerous to the individual and also to the system if one does not test despite experiencing symptoms. So, people should come forward and get themselves tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms,' he asserted.
Highlighting that the infection was spreading from bigger cities to smaller cities and now to villages near urban areas, Paul said the need of the hour is more testing and seeking early medical care.
The official also noted that there have been repeated complaints from states about people becoming lax in following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
'We are getting complaints from state governments that people have become lax in following COVID-appropriate behaviour,' he said while stressing that following public health measures like social distancing, wearing masks, maintaining hand hygiene and avoiding large gatherings are crucial to prevent the infection spread, especially when the economy is opening up.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the Centre has been telling the states and UTs consistently that the strategy to fight the pandemic should focus on chasing the virus, 'but we can chase the virus only when we catch the missing persons'.
As per the feedback received from central teams which recently visited the states/UTs, he said, in several states, many symptomatic people who tested negative through the rapid antigen tests were not made to undergo RT-PCR tests to confirm if they have contracted the disease.
'You need to catch these missing persons as they end up spreading the infection. This has been our request to states and UTs that they should follow the ICMR guidelines according to which all symptomatic individuals testing negative through the rapid antigen test should be confirmed with a real-time PCR test,' Bhushan said.
Although COVID-19 cases are on the rise in terms of absolute numbers, India still has 3,102 cases per million population and the deaths per million population is 53, both of which are amongst the lowest in the world, he said.
Along with this, the COVID-19 case fatality rate in the country is continuously declining and stands at 1.70 per cent as on date, the official said.
Giving a break-up of the cases and deaths reported from states, Bhushan said five states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh account for approximately 70 per cent of the total COVID-19 deaths, and 62 per cent of total active COVID-19 cases in the country.
'The states where active cases are mostly concentrated are also, more or less, accounting for most of the deaths,” he said.
'Also, 14 states and UTs have less than 5,000 active COVID-19 cases, while Lakshadweep has no active cases,' the health secretary said.
A total of 28 states and UTs have COVID-19 case fatality rate lower than the national average of 1.70 per cent, he noted.
When asked if private laboratories are being ‘demonised’, Bhushan said, 'An emphatic no. If we look at the share of private labs testing in the overall testing on a daily basis, it can be seen it has increased day on day and month on month. When we started, the participation of private labs in testing was zero.
'In a span of 24 hours, private labs testing 1,18,028 samples across the country, out of 10 lakh samples, is not an insignificant number, and this is progressively increasing,' he added.
Within a span of two weeks, the national average figure of tests per million has increased from 26,016 to 36,703, he said.
NITI Aayog member Paul said India is considering Russia's request for conducting phase 3 clinical trial and manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine ‘Sputnik V’ by Indian firms. He said there has been 'significant movement' on both these fronts and specific outcomes are expected soon.
Paul, who also chairs the national expert group on COVID-19 vaccine administration, said the government attaches 'great importance to this offer of partnership from a very special friend to this nation'.
PTI PLB/UZM SRY