New Delhi, Mar 17 (PTI) Expressing concern over a rise in COVID-19 cases in parts of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday called for 'quick and decisive' steps to check the emerging 'second peak' of coronavirus, and stressed the need to seriously follow the 'test, track and treat' approach.
In a virtual interaction with state chief ministers over the pandemic situation and the ongoing vaccination drive, Modi also asserted that vaccine is an effective weapon against the diseases and asked states to establish more vaccination centres, be it government-run or private. In his first interaction with chief ministers after the vaccination drive started in January, he said states like Maharashtra and Punjab have been seeing a rise in the COVID cases while the positivity rate has shot up in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
Seventy districts in the country have seen an increase in the positivity rate by over 150 per cent in the last few weeks, he said, underlining his concern.
'If we do not stop it here, then a condition for a nationwide outbreak may emerge,' he said, and called for quick and decisive steps to stop it.
Urging chief ministers to ramp up testing and put in place other measures, he noted that many tier 2 and 3 cities, which were earlier seen as 'safe zones' due to low spread of the infection, were now witnessing a rise in positive cases.
One of the reasons behind India's 'successful' fight against the pandemic is that villages largely remained unaffected by the diseases, and if it now spreads across smaller towns then the rural areas too will be affected, he said.
Existing system in the rural areas may fall short if the infection spreads there, he said, asking states to take necessary measures. Modi urged states to scale up RT-PCR tests, which he said should account for more than 70 per cent of overall testing, increase vaccination centres while targeting zero wastage of vaccines, follow diligently the practice of 'test, track and treat' and create micro-containment zones to curb the infection's spread.
He also asked states to pay special attention to the referral system and ambulance network in small cities as the whole country has opened up for travel. States should develop a mechanism to share information to follow the SOP for surveillance of the contacts of travellers, especially coming from abroad, he said.
The confidence brought by India's fight against the pandemic so far should not lead to overconfidence and its success should not cause carelessness, he said, and asked chief ministers to take necessary measures, including enforcement of preventive measures like wearing masks and social distancing.
Many of the most COVID-affected countries have suffered from many waves, he said, and noted that some states in India have also been seeing a sudden rise in the cases after a phase of decline.
People should not be put on panic-mode but there is need to ensure that they get rid of this problem as well, he said.
'Test, track and treat' should be taken as seriously now as it has been for over a year since the outbreak, he added.
The Prime Minister reiterated that RT PCR tests should make up for over 70 per cent of overall coronavirus testing, while noting that states likes Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha have been mostly dependent on antigen tests.
There is also a need to take issue of wastage of vaccines doses very seriously, Modi said, while noting that it is as high as 10 per cent in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh while the situation is no better in Uttar Pradesh.
Reiterating the mantra of 'dawai bhi, kadai bhi' (medicines as well as strict preventive measures), he said enough seriousness about wearing masks is not there in many places in the country.
He asked states to look into local governance issues to sort out shortcomings and also urged them to send samples for genome testing to identify mutants of the virus and assess their effects.
Modi also lauded the continually increased pace of vaccination in the country, noting that recently there were over three million vaccinations in a single day.
India has put up a strong fight against the Coronavirus so far, and it is being cited as example in the world, he said, asserting that the country's recovery rate is over 96 per cent and fatality rate among the lowest.
During the interaction, Home Minister Amit Shah listed out the districts which require special focus from states in order to contain the spread of the virus, an official release said, adding that the Union health secretary gave a presentation on the current COVID situation in the country and the vaccination strategy.
Some chief ministers, including from West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, did not attend the meeting, official sources said.
The Prime Minister has held regular interactions with chief ministers since the pandemic's outbreak in India over a year ago. PTI KR PYK PYK