Major reason for surge in cases is laxity in following COVID-appropriate behaviour: Vardhan

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New Delhi, Apr 6 (PTI) Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday said one of the major reasons for the surge in cases was people becoming lax towards following COVID-appropriate behaviour and urged them take up mass awareness campaigns to re-instill the importance of such measures among the masses.

Vardhan, who reviewed the COVID-19 situation and progress of vaccination in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan, said these 11 states together contributed 54 per cent of the total cases and 65 per cent of the total deaths in the country, with a disproportionately high number of deaths in Maharashtra and Punjab.

A high test positivity rate was being seen in Maharashtra (25 per cent) and Chhattisgarh (14 per cent), he said, according to a Health Ministry statement. Vardhan noted that since February, these states have witnessed a steep increase in cases, majority of which have been reported in the younger population of 15-44 years, the ministry said in a statement.

Also, it was pointed out that majority of the deaths have been reported among those over 60 years.

Vardhan appreciated the increase in tests in the last four weeks but cautioned against the high RAT proportion in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. Another worrisome aspect pointed out was that the testing capacity of the private sector was underutilised in these states, the statement said.

Meanwhile, he applauded states across the country for the collaborative work that they have put in for the collective gains till now. The Centre has been supporting and will continue to support states and UTs through all possible recourses to fight the global pandemic, he assured them. Vardhan said that while cases were on the rise since the past few weeks, the national cumulative fatality rate (CFR) was 1.30 per cent now. India's vaccination coverage crossed 8.31 crore doses, with single largest vaccination in a span 24 hours being more than 43 lakh doses administered. The total number of tests has surpassed 25 crore on Tuesday, he said. 'From one lab at NIV, Pune, we now have 2,443 diagnostic labs across the country. Our testing capacity has escalated to 13,00,000 per day,' he said. Vardhan said that India has also supported the global community through Vaccine Maitri, under which 6.45 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been exported to 84 countries. As many as 3.58 crore doses have been supplied to 25 nations under commercial contracts, and 1.05 crore to 43 countries as grants, he said.

The health minister chaired a comprehensive and detailed review of COVID cases, vaccination status and challenges being faced by the states in management of coronavirus. He highlighted that a large part of the reason for the surge in cases in almost all parts of the country, more specifically in these 11 states, was that people had adopted lax behaviour towards following COVID norms.

'It seems that people have given 'tilanjali' to measures and steps that can protect them from COVID such as mask wearing, avoiding gatherings and maintaining physical distance, which I have called social vaccine and are as important as the vaccines that we now have,' Vardhan was quoted as saying in the statement.

He urged states to take up mass awareness campaigns to re-instill the importance of measures in the masses. 'It is only with a Jan Andolan and Jan Bhagidari that we shall be able to overcome this phase of high rise in cases in the country,' the minister said.

Vardhan reminded state health ministers that 'the measures to prevent and contain COVID-19 are not rocket science. We have successfully adopted these measures all of last year and shown the world our success story'.

He said the same measures have to be reinforced and implemented with more rigour and commitment by states and people. They form the fundamental pillars of the fight against COVID-19, he added.

In order to curb the resurgence of the pandemic, Vardhan advised states to strengthen their public and private healthcare resources. The limiting of social and public gatherings, implementation of 'test, track, treat' strategy with 70 per cent RT-PCR ratio, quarantine of positive cases, contact tracing of at least 25 to 30 contacts per positive person were also stressed upon, the statement added.

Speaking on the need to enhance the pace of vaccination, Vardhan assured everyone that the Centre will continually replenish the vaccine stock and exhorted states to vaccinate the prioritised groups in a mission mode.

'There is no vaccine shortage in any part of the country. The Centre is providing the required quantities to all states and UTs,' he stated.

State health ministers shared a brief snapshot of the actions taken for containment, surveillance and treatment of COVID positive cases along with best practices of their states. PTI PLB AAR AAR