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Centre sends teams to 10 states amid rising Omicron cases

Five of the states selected have more than 5,000 active cases at present: Kerala (26,265); Maharashtra (12,108); West Bengal (7,446); Karnataka (7,280); and Tamil Nadu (6,798).

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: December 26, 2021 3:55:00 am
People crowd at the New Delhi railway station on Saturday. The Centre has urged people to avoid gatherings and follow social distancing norms owing to the Omicron threat. (Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

In the backdrop of rising cases of the highly infectious Omicron, the Union Health Ministry Saturday sent multi-disciplinary teams and nodal officers to 10 states that are either reporting a surge or recording vaccination coverage below the national average.

The teams including specialists will be stationed in the states for the next three-five days, assessing the situation, suggesting remedial action, and submitting a report every evening by 7 pm. The teams have been deployed in Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Mizoram, Karnataka, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Punjab.

UP and Punjab, which figure in the list, are headed for Assembly elections, and on Thursday, the Centre had specifically asked poll-bound states to boost their vaccination numbers.

“In view of the rapid surge in cases and deaths because of Covid-19 (as reported by various news channels, state governments and internal reviews, the statement said)… it has been seen that a number of Omicron cases have emerged in some states. It has also been observed that the pace of Covid-19 vaccination in these is less than the national average. In wake of the situation, a decision has been taken to deploy multi-disciplinary Central teams to 10 identified states, some of which are reporting an increase in the number of Omicron cases or slow vaccination pace,” the Health Ministry said, in an office memorandum.

Sources said the mention of deaths was largely for Kerala.

The teams will specifically look at five areas: contract tracing, including surveillance, containment operations; Covid-19 testing, including sending of adequate samples from clusters to INSACOG network for genome sequencing; Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and its enforcement; availability of hospital beds, sufficient logistics including ambulances, ventilators, and, medical oxygen; and vaccination progress.


India’s jab story

Overall, 89% of the country's adult population has received the first dose of a Covid vaccine, and 61% are fully vaccinated.

Five of the states selected have more than 5,000 active cases at present: Kerala (26,265); Maharashtra (12,108); West Bengal (7,446); Karnataka (7,280); and Tamil Nadu (6,798).

Maharashtra (57%) and Tamil Nadu (57%) are also reporting second dose coverage lower than the national average. Besides, Maharashtra has the highest number of Omicron cases as of now, 108, picked through genome sequencing.

Mizoram is on the list as it is the only state in the country where two districts are reporting more than 10% positivity rate: Champai (11.72%) and Mamit (13.62%). Significantly, in the two districts, Mizoram has reported 2,096 cases per million as compared to the national average of 72.

The four states with low first dose and second dose vaccination coverage that are on the list are Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and Punjab. Bihar has administered a cumulative 9.66 crore doses: 79% have got the first dose, and 54% fully vaccinated. UP has administered a cumulative 19.38 crore doses: 83% with first dose, 45% fully vaccinated. Jharkhand has administered 2.86 crore doses in all: 69% with first dose, and 41% fully vaccinated. Punjab has administered 2.60 crore doses: 77% have received first dose, and 41% are fully vaccinated.

Overall, 89% of the country’s adult population has received the first dose of a Covid vaccine, and 61% are fully vaccinated.

On Thursday, chairing a high-level review meeting on Omicron, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had directed the Health Ministry to send central teams to states reporting a surge in cases and those who have insufficient health infrastructure as well as asked states to ramp up vaccination coverage.

On the same day, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to states that pockets with low vaccination coverage may be more vulnerable to the new Omicron variant — and that the district administration must pay special attention to these pockets.

Significantly, he also flagged that states going in for elections in the near future must “exponentially ramp up vaccination” — especially in “low coverage districts”.


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