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Health Secretary reviews COVID-19 containment measures in five states, UT, pitches for more tests

Rajesh Bhushan underscored the need to suppress, curb and break the chain of transmission of the disease by strengthening the active case search focusing on the co-morbid and elderly population.

Published: 07th September 2020 03:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th September 2020 09:33 AM   |  A+A-

A health worker collects a nasal swab from a person to send it for COVID testing at city market near Victoria Hospita in Bengaluru on Sunday. (Photo | Nagaraja Gadekal/EPS)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  As the country saw a new high in Covid-19 cases with over 90,000 new infections in 24 hours, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Sunday reviewed measures for containment and management of the disease in 35 districts spanning five states and a Union Territory with the Health Secretaries concerned.

These districts comprise Kolkata, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and 24 South Parganas in West Bengal; Pune, Nagpur, Thane, Mumbai, Mumbai Suburban, Kolhapur, Sangli, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Raigad, Jalgaon, Solapur, Satara, Palghar, Aurangabad, Dhule and Nanded in Maharashtra; Surat in Gujarat; Puducherry; East Singhbhum in Jharkhand; and all 11 districts in Delhi.

In the meeting, held through video conference, Bhushan underscored the need to suppress, curb and eventually break the chain of transmission of the disease by strengthening the active case search focusing on the co-morbid and elderly population; revisiting and strengthening the containment measures in the affected areas; and scaling up the testing to lower the positivity rates below 5 per cent.

In addition to the state Health Secretaries, District Collectors, Municipal Commissioners and other functionaries of the districts affected also participated. The state Health Secretaries presented a detailed analysis on the current status of Covid-19 in these districts covering the aspects of containment measures, contact tracing, surveillance activities, facility-wise case fatality rates, trends in terms of weekly new cases and deaths.

They also discussed the detailed roadmaps and action plans for the next one month. Details in terms of split of real time RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests conducted in the district, re-testing percentage of symptomatic negatives from antigen tests, testing lab utilisation, hospitalisation status and bed occupancies of oxygen-supported beds, Intensive Care Unit beds and ventilator, were also shared with the Centre.

Ensure follow up of updated advisory allowing COVID-19 testing on-demand: Centre to states

The Centre has asked all states and Union Territories to ensure necessary follow up of its updated advisory on COVID-19 testing strategy, allowing 'testing on-demand', to achieve a higher number of examination with greater flexibility and simplicity.

The 'Advisory on Strategy for COVID-19 Testing in India' (version VI) lists the scope for testing in containment zones, non-containment areas, in hospitals, and also for the first time provides for testing on-demand with simplified modalities to be decided by the states and Union territories.

It also indicates the choice of testing in order of priority for each of the settings.

A letter jointly written by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava to chief secretaries and administrators highlighted that having adequate testing capacities and simplified testing protocol are important components in the management of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The country has so far conducted more than 4.66 crore tests in more than 1,600 laboratories in the country, they said in the letter, adding there has been tremendous progress in upscaling testing infrastructure both in terms of the number of laboratories and daily testing capacity.

"It is a matter of great pride that for the last two days (Wednesday and Thursday), the country has been testing in excess of 11.5 lakh samples every day which is the highest daily testing average anywhere in the world," the letter stated.

With this significant increase in the testing facilities and infrastructure, the need for further refinement in the existing COVID-19 testing strategy to make it more comprehensive has been felt.

After due deliberations by national experts, the National Task Force on COVID-19 has formulated a reviewed and simplified advisory 'Strategy for COVID-19 testing in India'.

"We are sure that with the increased levels of testing and enhanced testing infrastructure, this advisory would further encourage the states to have even higher levels of testing, covering a wide range of persons with greater flexibility and simplification."

"It is requested that this advisory may kindly be disseminated to all concerned for necessary follow up at the earliest," the letter stated.

The updated advisory on COVID-19 testing strategy has also allowed testing on demand for "all individuals undertaking travel to countries or Indian states mandating a negative COVID-19 test at the point of entry".

It also suggested that all the people living in containment zones should be tested by rapid antigen tests, particularly in cities where there has been a widespread transmission of the infection.

The ICMR also stressed that no emergency procedure (including deliveries) should be delayed for lack of tests, and pregnant women should not be referred to another hospital for lack of testing facility.

(With PTI Inputs)

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