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Situation going from bad to worse, vaccinate all 45-plus in surge districts in 2 weeks: Centre

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry said that six states — Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat — continue to report a surge in daily cases and account for 78.56 per cent of the new cases overall.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: March 31, 2021 7:09:24 am
A containment zone in the national capital region (Express Photo: Gajendra Yadav, File)

With several parts of the country reporting a second wave of Covid-19 cases, the Centre Tuesday warned that the situation is going from “bad to worse” and urged states to achieve 100 per cent vaccination coverage of those above the age of 45 years in surge districts within the next two weeks.

The Government will roll out the third phase of its vaccination drive from April 1 to cover all those above the age of 45. On Saturday, during a meeting with 46 districts that reported 70 per cent of the total cases over the last month, the Centre conveyed that 90 per cent of Covid-linked deaths in the country continue to be in the category of those aged above 45.

“All districts with high caseload and fast growth of cases must ensure 100 per cent saturation vaccination of the priority age group of 45 years and above in the coming two weeks. Any complacency at this stage, at any level, will have heavy costs,” Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote in a letter sent to all states and Union Territories.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry said that six states — Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat — continue to report a surge in daily cases and account for 78.56 per cent of the new cases overall.

“The situation is becoming bad to worse. There is a serious cause for concern. In some states, in particular, there is a huge cause of worry. But no state can be complacent. What the trends show is that the virus is still very active and can penetrate our defences. And when we think we have found ways to control the virus, it strikes back. The active cases, which were above a lakh, is now at 5.4 lakh. Two-thirds are in one particular state. But the fact is that it is a five-time rise,” Dr V K Paul, who heads the country’s Covid task force, said.

Bhushan, meanwhile, pointed out that the average positivity rate during the last week in Maharashtra stood at a staggering 23.44 per cent against the national mark of 5.65 percent. Except for Bengaluru and Delhi, all the top ten districts with maximum active cases in the country are from Maharashtra.

According to the top Health official, Maharashtra and Punjab continue to be a cause of concern. “On February 10, Maharashtra was reporting 3,051 daily cases and 32 deaths. On March 24, it reported 34,456 daily cases and 118 deaths. This is the extent of the surge in the state. We have to look at this data along with a weekly positivity rate of 23.44 per cent. This shows that the simple public health response activities are not taking place in the state,” Bhushan said.

“Similarly, Punjab, which was reporting 240 daily cases in the second week of February, reported 2,742 cases on March 24. The state’s weekly positivity rate was 8.82 per cent. This shows that Punjab is not testing enough. It also shows that the state is not promptly isolating people,” he said.

According to the Centre, five states with the maximum average positivity rate over the last week were Maharashtra (23.44 per cent), Punjab (8.82 per cent), Chhattisgarh (8.24 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (7.82 per cent), and Tamil Nadu (2.50 per cent).

“The weekly data shows how the infection is spreading in the last few days. There is an urgent need to significantly increase testing in these states. This has to be increased exponentially. The states also need to increase the proportion of RT-PCR tests,” Bhushan said.

Paul warned that the number of deaths over the last few days has increased four times. “The new cases, which were around 9,000 per day, were 68,000 the day before yesterday. That is again six-seven times acceleration. That is huge. We have taken pride as a nation that the case fatality rate is low…but from 77 deaths per day, we are now witnessing four times that number in the last couple of days. Clearly, we have to be very vigilant. Not only in those states where the battle is raging, but in every state of the country,” Paul said.

“Without effective contact tracing, without quarantining contacts, and, without creating zones of containment wherever a cluster of cases appear, we allow the chains of transmission to be active,” Paul said.

Business As Usual by E P Unny

Bhushan urged states to increase private sector participation in the vaccination drive while pointing out that only 16.53 percent of doses were administered in the sector.

In his letter, Bhushan also asked all states to focus on mortality reduction. “Do an analysis to understand system-related issues of why deaths happened: whether it was due to late detection (surveillance failure), or late admission (delay in referral), or due to clinical care at hospital,” he wrote.

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