NEW DELHI: The Centre on Saturday asked states to conduct active surveillance for identifying COVID-19 cases in all urban slums by recording influenza-like symptoms and checking temperature, blood oxygen levels on nearly 7 crore individuals.
The development comes as the total coronavirus cases in the country reached 85,940 with 2,752 deaths.
A guideline on "Preparedness and response to COVID-19 in Urban Settlements" issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that as per 2011 Census there are 2613 towns or cities with such settlements with 6.54 crore population residing in 1.39 crore households, representing 17.4 per cent of all urban population.
This would have increased in number further since last few years, said the 9-page document that detailed measures such as identifying COVID-19 care centres, health centres and hospitals in the close vicinity of the slums.
The government has also made it clear that now when pre-symptomatic or those COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms are being allowed to stay at home under certain conditions. The infected patients or suspects in urban slums will have to be quarantined institutionally.
"This direction has been given, provided the dense population of these settlements and the practical issues residents face," a senior health ministry official said. "We do not want what is happening in Dharavi to be replicated in other urban slums. A significant percentage of population might have migrated to villages already but people who are still there should be thoroughly examined and guided."
The guideline also said that quarantine facilities should be set up in school, stadium, etc in nearby areas where a large number of high risk contacts can be accommodated.
"Shifting of high risk contacts (elderly and those with co-morbid conditions) is a crucial intervention to minimize the spread of disease in such persons, thereby limiting morbidity and mortality among them," it said. "A contingency plan will also be in place to move high risk population to alternate or temporary sites."
The guidelines come soon after Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan held a meeting with state health secretaries, district magistrates and municipal heads of 30 municipal areas across 12 states, with highest COVID-19 caseloads.
These 30 areas from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Odisha have nearly 80 per cent of total COVID-19 cases in India as of now.
In the meeting, Sudan underlined factors to be considered while mapping the containment and buffer zones. The activities mandated in containment zone like perimeter control, active search for cases through house to house surveillance, contact tracing and testing protocol, clinical management of the active case.
The Centre also stressed on the surveillance activities in the buffer zone like monitoring of Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses and ILI cases, ensuring social distancing and promoting hand hygiene.