Union minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday advised seven states, including Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, to focus on enhanced testing, especially in districts with higher COVID-19 positivity and places of large gatherings like markets and workplaces. Vardhan, who interacted with chief ministers, state health ministers, principal secretaries and additional chief secretaries of Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura Meghalaya and Goa through video conferencing and urged them to focus on effective clinical management of COVID-19 cases to reduce deaths in the first 24, 48 or 72 hours.
Highlighting the state specific areas of concern that would require focussed attention, he noted that although the active cases have come down in Maharashtra, it continues to have a large active COVID-19 caseload with a high fatality rate of 2.6 per cent, which increases to 3.5 per cent in and around Mumbai, the Union Health Ministry said in a statement. The case fatality rate in Uttarakhand is higher than the national average at 1.64 per cent.
Also, active cases are on the rise in the recent days in Manipur. Higher positivity in the state is indicative of hidden transmission, Vardhan said. Forty per cent of the total deaths were recorded in just the last one month in Goa, which is a cause of concern, he underlined.
With 70 per cent of cases concentrated in Aizawl, Mizoram is seeing a further rise in active cases; Tripura and Meghalaya are witnessing higher deaths in the active age groups of 45-60 years, which are preventable, the Union health minister highlighted. Vardhan appreciated the relentless services of several COVID warriors and the frontline workers who have handled the situation on the ground with grit and determination without showing signs of fatigue.
He further stated that as on date, there were only 4.09 per cent of active cases on oxygen support, 2.73 per cent of the active cases in ICU and a minute 0.45 per cent on ventilator support, the ministry said in the statement. He, however, stressed on the need to be vigilant in the coming winter and the long festive season, which could threaten the gains made against COVID-19.
To stop the chain of transmission, he stressed on the importance of 'Jan Andolan' initiated by the prime minister. Elaborating on the steps taken by the government to promote 'Jan Andolan' among the masses, he added that "COVID appropriate behaviour is the most potent social vaccine".
Vardhan advised the states to focus on higher testing, especially in districts with higher positivity, mandatory testing of symptomatic negatives by rapid antigen test, focus on high risk groups and vulnerable populations for SARI/ILI surveillance, which can give an indication of infection, proper follow-up and monitoring of those in home isolation, especially the vulnerable group. He also highlighted the importance of widespread IEC campaigns so that people in home isolation can reach hospitals in time for effective clinical management, and efforts to be made to reduce deaths in the first 24, 48 or 72 hours, which was high in many states and districts, the statement stated.
Vardhan also indicated towards the need for higher testing in areas like marketplaces, workplaces, places of gatherings. The chief ministers and state health ministers shared a brief snapshot of the actions taken for containment, surveillance and treatment of COVID-19 cases along with the best practices of their states.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat stated that they have mounted a comprehensive multimedia IEC campaign for encouraging COVID appropriate behaviour. Challans have been given to 1.4 lakh for faulting on social distancing, and 4.5 lakh on mask negligence. In the later case, the defaulters were given four masks each to promote mask wearing behaviour.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope informed about the 'My Family, My Responsibility' campaign in the state where house-to-house surveys and monitoring of home isolation cases and SARI/ILI patients were undertaken. Of the 5.7 lakh surveyed, 51,000 COVID19 positive cases were identified. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan advised the states to focus on three areas that include the need to suppress and break the chain of transmission; keeping mortality less than 1 per cent and the need for prolonged behaviour change.
To ensure these, he advised for quick and aggressive testing, targeted testing at marketplaces, workplaces, religious congregations which have the potential to become super-spreader events, followed by quick tracing; all close contacts to be traced in the first 72 hours; at least 10 persons to be traced for every positive person. He also advised to increase the proportion of tests through RT-PCR against RAT and to mandatorily test symptomatic negatives from RAT tests by RT-PCR.
For ensuring the second point, he advised quick hospitalisation, ensuring adequate infrastructure in hospitals, focus on avoidable deaths in the first 24, 48 or 72 hours; focus on vulnerable population groups; and review hospital wide fatality figures, the statement said. To ensure adherence of COVID appropriate behaviour, he advised strong campaigns involving MPs, MLAs and local influencers.