Enforce COVID-appropriate behaviour, plan response in advance for next 3 weeks: Centre to UTs

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New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) The Centre on Tuesday advised all union territories to ensure strict enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour along with restrictions on movement and large gatherings, an official statement said.

The UTs were also asked to ramp up testing and augment hospital infrastructure while planning COVID response measures in advance for the next three weeks, the Union health ministry said in its statement.

The measures were suggested at a high-level meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla along with Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, and attended by chief secretaries of all UTs, to review the COVID-19 situation and the response strategy, it said.

The meeting, held through videoconferencing, was also attended by Member (Health) NITI Aayog Dr V K Paul, and DHR Secretary and ICMR DG Dr Balram Bhargava. The director generals of police of all UTs were also present at the meeting, it added.

During the meeting, the UTs were advised to increase RT-PCR testing along with the use of rapid antigen tests (RAT) for screening in clusters, the statement said.

Urgent review of clinical management was strongly recommended along with ramping up testing and hospital infrastructure, it added.

Bhalla pointed out the steep growth in the number of cases all across the country.

From 20,000 cases reported on January 1, India has been reporting almost 10 times more cases (more than 2,00,000 cases) daily since April 15, the statement said.

In the last 11 days, new cases have almost doubled from 1.31 lakh April 9 to 2.73 lakh April 20, it said.

Through a detailed and comprehensive presentation, the current trajectory of total new COVID-19 cases, weekly tests, weekly positivity rate, weekly new cases, weekly number of deaths and status/proportion of RT-PCR tests and RATs in all UTs were presented, the statement said.

The UTs shared their present efforts for containment and management of the positive cases. Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Lakshadweep pointed to the rise in cases due to a large number of inbound travellers, it said.

Lakshadweep has seen a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases after April 14 primarily due to a large number of people travelling to the mainland to shop for the recent festive occasions, it added.

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

Chandigarh informed that its administration is conducting door-to-door counselling for increasing vaccination. Ninety per cent of the patients are in home isolation and being monitored by mobile teams, the statement said.

The UT of Delhi discussed the shortage of beds and the present efforts to augment this through the central government infrastructure and support through the Defence Research and Development Organisation's recently operationalised COVID Hospital, it said.

The Delhi government expressed gratitude for the timely support of the Union government for augmenting their hospital bed capacity last year and this year. Their efforts to ramp up testing and reduce the turnaround time for the test results were also outlined, according to the statement.

'After a detailed discussion on various issues of COVID management, the Union Home Secretary urged constant vigilance regarding the evolving situation of COVID in the UTs. Strict enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour was stressed along with stricter enforcement of movement restrictions and prohibition of large gatherings and regulated timings for markets, etc.

'He advised the UTs to increase RT-PCR testing along with the use of RAT for screening in clusters. Urgent review of clinical management was strongly recommended along with ramping up testing and hospital infrastructure,' the statement said.

Expressing concern over the current scenario, Dr 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 the next three weeks.

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

He also stressed planning the minutest details of COVID management.

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

Bhalla assured continued and full support of the government of India for all efforts of UTs for containment and management of COVID-19, the statement said.

India's cumulative COVID-19 tally climbed to 1,53,21,089 on Tuesday with 2,59,170 fresh cases, according to Union health ministry data. PTI PLB DIV DIV