New Delhi, May 6 (PTI) Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday expressed concern over high fatality rate among COVID-19 patients in some districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, asking the two states to focus on early surveillance and aggressive contact tracing.
The death toll due to COVID-19 rose to 1,694 and the number of cases climbed to 49,391 across the country on Wednesday, registering an increase of 126 deaths and 2,958 cases in the last 24 hours since 8 am on Tuesday, according to the Union Health Ministry.
The number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 33, 514 while a total of 14,183 people have recuperated in the country so far. 'In the last 24 hours, 1,457 patients have recovered, taking the total recovery rate to 28.72 per cent,' the ministry said.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a total of 12,76,781 samples have been tested as on May 6 till 9 am.
Considering the possibility of increase in cases of novel coronavirus infections, the ministry has decided to use Railway coaches as COVID Care Centres for suspected or confirmed cases categorized as mild or very mild cases.
The health ministry had on Tuesday said the nationwide COVID-19 case status will be updated on its website only once a day in the morning instead of twice a day as was being done previously.
Vardhan held a high-level meeting with Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister and Health Minister Nitinbhai Patel and Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope as the states reported 368 and 617 COVID-19 fatalities respectively.
In the meeting, Vardhan stressed on the need for proper interventions like screening and testing of severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and Influenza Like Illness (ILI) cases as this may prevent spread of infection in other areas.
'Implementation of effective containment strategy needs to be on the top priority of the states to reduce the mortality rate. It is the need of the hour to take preventive, pre-emptive and comprehensive measures in a systematic manner and follow the protocols laid down by the Centre to prevent occurrence of fresh cases,' he said.
It was pointed out that in some cases, the patients either suppressed the information of their infection or reported late to the hospitals for treatment, which may be indicative of some fear or stigma associated with COVID-19.
The Union minister urged the states to ensure that persons aged more than 65 years and having any non-communicable disease are screened on priority in the Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centers.
Vardan also pointed out that in compliance of the guidelines issued by the Centre, non-COVID-19 essential health services such as antenatal care, immunisation drives, tuberculosis case finding and treatment, providing blood transfusion for dialysis patients, treatment of cancer patients among others should not be neglected.
Meanwhile, the ministry said Aarogy Setu Interactive Voice Response System has been implemented for the people having feature phones or landlines while urging citizens to download the mobile application, noting that it will enable them to assess the risk of their catching the novel coronavirus infection.
Close to nine crore users have downloaded the Aarogya Setu mobile application so far, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 was informed on Tuesday.
The 'Aarogy Setu Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS)' is a toll-free service, available across the country, wherein citizens can give a missed call to the number '1921' and they will get a call back requesting for inputs regarding their health.
The questions asked are aligned with Aarogy Setu App, and based on the responses given. Citizens will also get an SMS indicating their health status and further alerts for improving their health, the ministry said.
'All the citizens are urged to download the mobile application. This is designed to keep a user informed, in case she/he crosspaths with someone who has tested positive,' a health ministry statement said.
The Centre meanwhile rejected charges by the opposition that the application breached privacy.
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asserted that the platform is 'absolutely robust, safe and secure' in terms of privacy protection and data security.
The response came after a French hacker and cyber security expert Elliot Alderson on Tuesday claimed that 'a security issue has been found' in the Aarogya Setu app and that 'privacy of 90 million Indians is at stake'.
The Centre had on Friday made it mandatory for government and private sector employees to use Aarogya Setu mobile application to bolster the efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, and entrusted the organisational heads with ensuring its 100 per cent coverage.
According to the ministry data,of the total fatalities, Maharashtra tops tally with 617 fatalities, Gujarat comes second with 368 deaths, followed by Madhya Pradesh at 176, West Bengal at 140, Rajasthan at 89, Delhi at 64, Uttar Pradesh at 56 and Andhra Pradesh at 36.
The death toll reached 33 in Tamil Nadu, 29 in Telengana, while Karnataka has reported 29 fatalities due to the respiratory disease. Punjab has registered 25 COVID-19 deaths, Jammu and Kashmir eight, Haryana six and Kerala and Bihar have reported four deaths each.
Jharkhand has recorded three COVID-19 fatalities. Meghalaya, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Assam and Uttarakhand have reported one fatality each, according to the ministry data. PTI PLB ASK TDS TDS