BENGALURU: The Covid-19 cluster at the SDM College in Dharwad is among two in the country which are being monitored by the Union Health Ministry. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan at a public health preparedness review meeting on Monday, not only listed out the precautionary measures and preparedness that states need to take, but has asked Karnataka’s genome sequencing committee to speed up the sequencing of the Dharwad samples to understand which variant was in circulation there. The other cluster being monitored by the Centre is in Maharashtra.
“There have been seven new Covid-19 clusters in Karnataka over the last few weeks — two each in Bengaluru and Mysuru and one each in Dharwad, Hassan and Tumakuru. The rate at which the numbers spread in the Dharwad cluster is surprising and also worrying. We have been told to closely observe symptoms and also speed up the genome sequencing of these groups,” said a senior health officer.
According to officials, states were asked to revise international travel guidelines and also not to let their guard down. While most of the students from the clusters in Karnataka have had a history travel from Kerala or are from the medical fraternity, Karnataka has been asked to increase surveillance and seek compulsory RT-PCR reports from anyone entering the state from Kerala. Also, there has to be effective monitoring of hotspots (clusters) and sending all positive samples for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG labs, the state was informed.
“We have been asked to increase testing. We have decided to test all international travellers on the first day of arrival and again on the fifth day. Also a team of eight doctors, headed by Dr V Ravi of the state’s Genome Sequencing Committee, has been formed to reduce the genome sequencing turnaround time and ensure quicker results, especially the clusters,” the officer explained.
Meanwhile, a release from the Press Information Bureau said that the state has been asked to ensure regular monitoring of home isolation cases, augment health infrastructure by ensuring availability of beds, ICUs and oxygen facilities. The state has also been asked to increase vaccination coverage. The Omicron variant doesn’t escape RT-PCR and RAT tests and hence, states were advised to ramp up testing for prompt and early identification of any cases. Mass gatherings of any kind should be avoided, the states were told.