TALKS WERE on with the Centre to allow districts in the “green” zone those that have not reported a single coronavirus case to allow industrial manufacturing if they could maintain social distancing among workers and kept them at their premises, said state Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Saturday, adding that guidelines regarding the matter were expected to be issued by the Centre in a couple of days.
Tope said the discussion that green zone districts might be allowed to resume internal activities as long as their borders were sealed was taken up during the video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The health minister said districts across the country might be classified as “red” with 15 or more COVID-19 cases, “orange” with up to 15 positive cases and “green” with none.
“The PM has also said green, orange and red zones will be created across the country. Detailed guidelines about these will be issued in a day or two. Even if the lockdown is extended, in green areas which have no cases, we may be able to start some activities by completely sealing the district borders. The PM has proposed a new concept of lock-in under which industries that vow to abide by social distancing, and, what lock-in means, will keep their workers inside their premises at a safe distance, then their manufacturing may continue. The PM has given such an indication in today’s video conference,” Tope said.
He also said to increase the testing rate, Maharashtra had proposed to the Centre and Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to allow “pool testing” in the state. This, he said, might increase the testing capacity by 10 to 20 times.
This method involves putting multiple swab samples together, and testing them using a single RTPCR test. If that test is negative, it means that all the people tested are negative. However, if the test is positive, everyone whose samples were part of the test have to be tested separately, to identify positive individuals.
“In pool testing, the sputum of 10 people is tested together. Among them, if we find a positive case then each one will have to be tested individually. But if it is negative, then in one test we will have tested everyone. This will save time and testing kits. This new concept can be useful in a highly-populated country like ours,” Tope said.
Maharashtra, which has the highest burden of COVID-19 cases, has also conducted the highest number of tests in the country, the health minister said. “We have, so far, conducted 33,000 tests,” Tope said.
“The chief minister has, on behalf of our state, proposed during the video conference with the Prime Minister the new concept of pool testing. We studied practices followed in the US through some doctors from Maharashtra, who are working there and presented it before the Prime Minister and the ICMR to allow it in the state and the country,” Tope said.
Tope said 91 per cent cases in the state were concentrated in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune.
He said it was important to be disciplined at this time or the lockdown, which has been extended in Maharashtra till April 30, might have to stay in force for a longer period of time.
Following directions of the Centre, Tope said hospitals will be categorised in three categories ? COVID Care Centres that will house asymptomatic positive cases, COVID health centres for patients with mild symptoms, and COVID hospitals for patients with severe symptoms. Large hospitals like Seven Hills in Andheri (East), he said, will be used in all three categories.
Tope said tele-medicine will be started in all districts to doctors who volunteer so that other health services in the state were not affected.
He also added that paramedics will be trained, and people must download the Aarogya Setu app as it could be useful in contact tracing
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