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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Might further relax curbs to accommodate single-dose beneficiaries if cases don’t spike post-Diwali: Tope

Tope told The Indian Express Tuesday that Covid cases in the state had fallen by 37.5 per cent in the last month despite the festive season and the relaxations of lockdown restrictions.

Mumbai |
October 19, 2021 11:41:36 pm
Ahmednagar hospital fire, Ahmednagar, Rajesh Tope, Maharashtra Health Minister, Pune, Pune news, Indian express, Indian express newsMaharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope had denied that his health ministry had failed to put in safety measures in the hospital, but he had indirectly blamed the Public Works Department. (Facebook/Rajesh Tope)

Written by Rupsa Chakraborty

If there is no spike in Covid cases after Diwali, the state government may consider relaxing restrictions to enable people with a single dose of the vaccination and “safe” status on the Aarogya Setu app to access public spaces where a double vaccination is required as of now, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said.

Tope told The Indian Express Tuesday that Covid cases in the state had fallen by 37.5 per cent in the last month despite the festive season and the relaxations of lockdown restrictions.

In its guidelines for reopening cinemas, theatres and auditoriums from October 22 with 50% seating capacity, the state government has said people may show either a full vaccination certificate, or “safe status” on the centralised Aarogya Setu app to enter these facilities.

“At present, we are allowing ‘safe’ status on Aarogya Setu app for places where the footfall of the individuals will be less. So far, we haven’t decided on opening up crowded places like trains, malls for partially vaccinated individuals. But if the cases remain low, we might allow beneficiaries with the first dose for all activities,” said Tope.

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), individuals who are taking Covishield vaccine have to wait for 84 days for the second jab after the first vaccination. Currently, only fully vaccinated persons, who have had their second dose at least 14 days previously, are allowed to enter malls and travel by trains.

The number of active cases has dropped from 42,955 recorded on September 19 to 26,805, as of October 19. Tope said that despite the anticipation of a third wave after Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri, there hasn’t been any spike in cases. If the situation remains the same, it would indicate possible herd immunity—when a large portion of a population becomes immune to a disease.

“Herd immunity might be attained because of the mass immunisation programme and Covid-19 infection among the population. So, we will have to analyse the infection pattern post-Diwali to decide on relaxation of restrictions for partially vaccinated people,” he said.

“We will be conducting a state-wide sero survey…which will help us to get an idea on the herd immunity,” said Tope.

The seven-day positivity rate presently stands at 1.9%. However, a few districts like Sindhudurg, Pune and Nashik among others are still reporting high positivity rates above 3.2% which has turned into the main cause of concern for the public health department. Considering this, members of the state Covid task force have expressed concern over allowing partially vaccinated beneficiaries in all activities.

The Aarogya Setu app assesses the health status of the users by asking three basic questions—if the individual has any symptoms like fever, loss of taste, cough among others; if the user has comorbidities, and their travel history in the last 14 days. If the user doesn’t have a possible Covid indicating factor, then the app shows “safe” under “Your status”.

“The plan hasn’t been discussed with the task force yet. So, we would not be able to comment on it. But at the individual level, I support taking both the doses before stepping into crowded places for the safety of others,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the task force. “Also, fully vaccinated people need to keep following Covid-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing,” he added.

Dr Subhas Salunke, member of the national Covid task force, said that even full vaccination, while essential, does not provide 100% protection against Sars-Cov-2—the virus that causes Covid-19. “People are contracting the infection even after getting fully vaccinated. Though such breakthrough infection is below 1%, it is still happening. So, nothing can assure that a fully vaccinated person in a movie theatre or a mall won’t be infected,” he said.

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