The Centre on Monday said that only 5 to 10 per cent of the active Covid cases have so far needed hospitalisation during the third wave in the country. Adding a note of caution, however, it warned that the situation right now is dynamic and may change rapidly.
During the second wave in the country, the percentage of active cases that needed hospital care were in the range of 20-23 per cent, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to states and Union territories.
“In the present surge, five to 10 per cent of active cases needed hospitalisation so far. The situation is dynamic and evolving. Therefore, the need for hospitalisation may also change rapidly,” Bhushan said.
The rise in cases in various parts of the country appears to be driven by the Omicron variant as well as by the continued presence of Delta, he said and stressed on augmenting human resources, particularly healthcare workers, for Covid management.
Several studies have so far indicated that Omicron causes milder disease as it, on most occasions, spares the lungs and affects only the upper respiratory tract.
The heavily mutated Omicron variant is smashing daily case records, but hospitalisations and deaths are fewer compared to the peaks driven by Delta last year.
A study from South Africa published in JAMA Network reported that only 41.3% of Covid-positive people visiting hospital emergency required admission during the Omicron wave as compared to 68-69% during the Delta wave. The proportion requiring oxygen therapy was 17.6% in the Omicron wave, significantly lower than the 74% in the Delta wave.
An analysis of a large volume of data from the UK Health Security Agency published in the BMJ said persons infected with Omicron were 50-70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than those infected with Delta.
Bhushan further stated that all states and Union Territories are being advised to keep a daily watch on the situation of the total number of active cases, cases under home isolation, the number of hospitalized cases, cases on oxygen beds, ICU beds and on ventilatory support.
“Based on this monitoring, the requirement of healthcare workers and their availability health facility wise must also be reviewed daily as was done during the second surge,” the health secretary said.
Appreciating that while various states and Union Territories initiated steps for the establishment of jumbo health facilities, field hospitals, temporary hospitals among others, Bhushan said both infrastructure and human resources have their limitations.
Therefore, it is important to conserve healthcare workers by initiating staggering wherever possible and by restricting elective procedures in the hospitals, he advised.
It is also important to strictly follow the advisory issued by the Health Ministry on January 9, for managing healthcare workers in Covid and non-Covid areas of healthcare facilities.
The ministry has suggested states and Union Territories to earmark different categories of beds in private clinical establishments for Covid care. “It must also be ensured that charges levied by such health facilities are reasonable and there is a mechanism to monitor and initiate action in cases of over-charging if any,” Bhushan said in the letter.
He also suggested engaging retired medical professionals or MBBS students for teleconsultation services and providing skill training of community volunteers in basic care and management at Covid Care Centres.
All district hospitals and medical college hospitals should be used as eSanjeevani teleconsultation hubs, he stated. Requisite financial resources for this have already been provided under ECRP-II to states and Union Territories, Bhushan said in the letter.
The Centre had earlier issued revised guidelines stating that asymptomatic contacts of patients no longer need to get tested. The government also laid down home isolation rules for mild and asymptomatic cases, while cutting the quarantine period after testing positive from at least 10 days to seven.
India on Monday recorded 1,79,723 fresh Covid-19 cases, pushing the active caseload to 7,23,619. The daily positivity rate stood at 13.29 per cent, while 146 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours.
(With PTI inputs)