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Thursday, Oct 06, 2022

Increase testing, enforce strict Covid-appropriate behaviour: Centre to Assam, Bengal govt as cases rise

On October 22, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had also written to West Bengal expressing concern over the rise in Covid cases in Kolkata, following Durga Puja celebrations earlier this month.

Covid-19Rampant flouting of Covid norms by revellers outside Durga Puja pandals and shopping malls in Kolkata and its adjoining districts is mostly to blame for the latest surge in infections in West Bengal, experts have said. (Express file photo by Shashi Ghosh)

The Centre, while taking into account a surge in Covid-19 infections in Assam and West Bengal, has asked the state governments to undertake a review of weekly positivity rates and decreasing testing figures. It has also stressed on the need for strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate behaviour.

In a letter to chief secretaries of Assam and West Bengal on October 26, Additional Secretary in the Union Health Ministry, Arti Ahuja, highlighted an increase in weekly new Covid cases since the past week (October 20-26) and early signs of a rise in positivity since the last four weeks till October 25.

On October 22, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had also written to West Bengal expressing concern over the rise in Covid cases in Kolkata, following Durga Puja celebrations earlier this month.

In the letter, he described Kolkata as one of the primary districts of concern. Despite the state capital seeing a surge in cases, with areas such as Dhakuria, Jadavpur, Topsia, Picnic Garden, Kasba, Tollygunge, Naktala-Patuli and Naktala-Jadavpur accounting for the bulk of them, a source in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) said there are no immediate plans to declare containment zones as it stands to affect lives and livelihoods. However, the source added that the city civic body might consider imposing micro-containment measures if cases continue to surge.

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Ahuja wrote that two districts—Kolkata and Howrah—have been identified as districts of concern due to the high quantum of cases and positivity.

She pointed out that the state has shown approximately 41 per cent rise in weekly new cases since the past week, 6,040 cases in the week of October 20-26 compared to 4,277 cases in the week of October 13-19 and that there have been early signs of increase in positivity since the past four weeks from 1.93 per cent in the week of September 28- October 4 to 2.39 per cent during October 19-25.

West Bengal has also witnessed a decline in the tests conducted from 2,62,319 during September 28-October 4 to 2,61,515 in the week of October 19-25.

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It has been observed that Covid cases surge exponentially where basic public health strategy (testing, tracking, treatment, Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination) is not followed rigorously, she said in the letter.

In this context, the officer has stressed on monitoring of cases by proper implementation of containment-zones, increased focus on house-to-house search for active Covid cases within these zones, strict and daily monitoring of cases under home isolation and their referral to hospitals and strengthening contact tracing of Covid-positive people and review of containment zones in Assam and West Bengal. Besides, there should be a detailed district-wise and facility-wise analysis of deaths, which includes the review of the number of fatalities that take place within 24 and 72 hours of admission to hospitals to resolve problems related to late hospital admission and the need for monitoring treatment practices.

Rampant flouting of Covid norms by revellers outside Durga Puja pandals and shopping malls in Kolkata and its adjoining districts is mostly to blame for the latest surge in infections in West Bengal, experts have said.

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A section of medical experts believe the government’s overt promotion of Puja pandals and handing out doles to clubs fuelled the rush of revellers. The spike has prompted local administrations to reimpose curbs in areas reporting a surge in cases.

The West Bengal government on Friday issued an order extending the prevailing Covid restrictions till November 30. However, it cleared the reopening of schools for students of classes 9 to 12, as well as colleges and universities, from November 16, in the line with an earlier announcement by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

The government also decided to resume suburban train services at 50 per cent seating capacity. According to the government notification, intra-state local trains could ply at 50 per cent seating capacity from October 31.

Ahuja, in her letter to Assam, pointed out that there has been 41 per cent increase in weekly new cases since the past week (October 20-26) and that there have been early signs of rise in positivity since last four weeks from 1.89 per cent in the week of September 28-October 4 to 2.22 per cent in the week of October 19-25.

“The state has also witnessed decline in tests conducted from 1,64,071 in the week of September 28-October 4 to 1,27,048 in the week of October 19-25. Because of the rising positivity, the state needs to conduct enhanced testing while maintaining the required RT-PCR share as it will aid in early identification of infection in the state,” he said.

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Two districts of Assam — Barpeta and Kamrup Metro — the additional secretary said have been identified as districts of concern due to high quantum of Covid cases and weekly positivity.

(With PTI inputs)

First published on: 30-10-2021 at 06:50:09 pm
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