NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over the surge in Covid cases in rural and tribal areas, the Union Health Ministry on Sunday issued a detailed guideline on pandemic containment and management in these areas. It has suggested surveillance, screening, home and community-based isolation and planning for health infrastructure for managing the infections at rural level.
It advised that peri-urban and rural areas plan a minimum 30-bedded Covid Care Centre for asymptomatic cases with comorbidities or mild cases where home isolation is not feasible. Provision of Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits should be made at all public health facilities including sub-centres or Health and Wellness Centres and Primary Health Centres, the Union Health Ministry said.
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According to the ministry, in every village, active surveillance should be done for influenza-like illness/severe acute respiratory infections periodically by ASHA workers with help of Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee (VHSNC). Symptomatic cases, it says, can be triaged at village level by tele-consultation with community health officer (CHO), and cases with comorbidity/low oxygen saturation should be sent to higher centres.
“Every sub-centre should run an ILI/SARI (illness/ severe acute respiratory infections) OPD for dedicated time slots/days,” it said. The ministry also advised that identified suspected Covid cases should be tested either through rapid antigen testing or by referral of samples to nearest testing laboratory, in accordance with ICMR guidelines.
The ministry said that CHOs should be trained in performing rapid antigen testing. Provision for test kits should be made at all public health facilities including sub-centres/health and wellness centres and primary health centres (PHCs).“Those asymptomatic but having history of high-risk exposure to Covid patients (exposure of more than 15 minutes without a mask within 6-feet distance) should be advised quarantine and tested as per ICMR protocol,” the report says.
Depending upon the intensity of surge and number of cases, as far as feasible, contact tracing should be done as per Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme’s (IDSP’s) guidelines, it stated. “Nearly 80-85% cases are asymptomatic/ mildly symptomatic. These patients do not require hospitalisation and may be managed at home or in Covid care isolation facilities,” the SOP stated.