New Delhi, Sep 3 (PTI) The COVID positivity rate among healthcare workers is on the higher side in the states and Union territories of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Puducherry and Punjab, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Union health ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the positivity rate of healthcare workers is tracked by the ministry and shared with the states and UTs as the medical professionals are precious resources.
'In Telangana, healthcare workers' positivity rate is 18 per cent, in Maharashtra it is 16 per cent, in Delhi 14 per cent, Karnataka 13 per cent, Puducherry 12 per cent and in Punjab it is 11 per cent. These are the states where the positivity rate among healthcare workers is on a higher side,' Bhushan said while addressing an online press briefing.
He said the ministry has drawn the attention of these states and UTs towards the issue.
'We must raise the question how are the healthcare workers getting infected. There is a standard protocol for hospital infection control. If that protocol is being followed or not, if not then it must be followed; whether adequate protection is being taken by these healthcare workers that is donning and doffing of PPEs. We have also issued SOPs on that,' Bhushan said.
'We have also recommended a buddy system where a nurse or a doctor sees if the PPE has been correctly doned or doffed (by a colleague),' he said.
Bhushan said the ministry has also drawn the attention of states and UTs to the localities from where the doctors, nurses and support staff are coming to the hospitals. 'If they are bringing infection from those localities then we need to decide whether those localities have been contained or not. In case there is a need for containment or declaring them as buffer zones then that must be done,' he said.
Responding to a question on immunity from the virus after contracting it, Bhushan said different scientific studies are under the health ministry's consideration suggesting that the antibodies can last in a person who has recovered from the virus for five-six months and even several years.
'But our advice is that even if you have recovered, wear masks and maintain social distancing norms,' he added.
ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said it is important to remember that COVID-19 is a new disease and not much is known about it.
'It is just an 8-9 month old disease. We don't know for how long the immunity will persist. It is being studied across the world, looking at how long antibodies persist,' he said.
'For respiratory viruses whether it is influenza or flu, historically the vaccination is given every year. It is because the immunity does not last for up to a year. For this virus we are looking at the issue,' Bhargava said.
On a question of reports of sudden deaths of asymptomatic patients, Bhargava said, 'Sudden death may occur because it (the virus) affects the coagulation system and clotting system. So if a clot is formed in the heart or brain then a heart attack or brain attack or a stroke can cause sudden death'.
Responding to a question on why the number of RT-PCR tests being conducted is decreasing, Bhushan said there is no uniform practice across the country.
'There was a particular period in the country when no rapid antigen test was available. So if you are using data of, eg., March or April and comparing it with testing data of August then obviously you will find an acute difference because RT-PCR test was available in March and April and rapid antigen test was not available in March and April,' he said.
'There is no uniform picture across the country. Eg, in Tamil Nadu more than 90 per cent tests are RT-PCR while in other states the testing capacity is limited, the RT-PCR testing capacity and TruNat and CBNAT testing capacity is limited,' he said.
He added that ICMR's guidelines clearly lay down that rapid antigen tests are ideal screening tests for densely populated areas and containment zones and buffer zones.
Bhushan also said there are states where the optimal capacity of RT-PCR off-late is not being utilised.
'However, I do admit that there are states where the optimal capacity of RT-PCR off-late is not being utilised. We have in the health ministry drawn the attention of those states to the fact that they do have an installed capacity of conducting x number of tests so they need to scale up their RT-PCR testing,' he said.
Bhargava said the rapid antigen tests conducted in India have been lauded by the WHO as they have been used in a calibrated manner. PTI UZM PLB RDM RDM