Updated: March 22, 2021 3:41:52 am
Warning of a possible surge in Covid-19 cases in Uttarakhand, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare asked the state government to step up testing and ensure adequate critical care facilities during the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary after a high-level central team led by NCDC director raised concerns over the state’s Covid preparedness.
According to a release from ministry, the Union Health Secretary has observed that currently more than 12 states in India have shown a surge in COVID19 cases during past few weeks, and pilgrims expected to visit Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela could also be from these States.
It has been noted that there is a potential of an surge in cases in the local population after the auspicious Shahi Snan days during the Kumbh Mela.
The Secretary has also noted that as per the report of the Central Team, 10-20 pilgrims and 10-20 locals are being reported positive every day. The increase in positivity rate is of concern, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh.
Over 32 lakh devotees had turned up in Haridwar for the first shahi snan on Mahashivratri on March 11, and the crowd is expected to rise for the upcoming shahi snans on April 12, 14 and 27.
The state has been informed that the daily testing numbers reported in Haridwar — 50,000 Rapid Antigen tests and 5,000 RTPCR tests — are not enough to effectively offset a huge number of expected pilgrim footfall.
It has been advised that the share of RTPCR tests being conducted at present needs to be significantly increased as per the ICMR guidelines to ensure that the pilgrims and local population is appropriately tested.
Worrysome positivity rate
As per the report of a Central team that visited Uttarakhand, 10-20 pilgrims and 10-20 locals are testing positive for the virus every day. This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly turn into an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during the Kumbh, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has observed. According to the state health bulletin, Uttarakhand had 861 active Covid cases on Sunday, with the maximum — 306 — in Haridwar.
The state government has been advised to follow scrupulously the SOPs issued by the ministry and display signage to disseminate the main points of these SOPs; increase awareness of self-reporting, especially among local population, in case of symptoms suggestive of COVID-19; and set up system for generating early warning signals in areas with susceptible population by monitoring trend of ARI/ ILI cases through Emergency Operational Centres.
It has also been urged to target significantly enhanced testing in potential high transmission areas, continue periodic testing of frontline workers before and after auspicious bathing days of the Kumbh and ensure operationalisation of adequate critical care treatment facilities.
It has also been asked to ensure effective risk communication, by using all forms of media platforms, for strict adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour.
“In case of surge in cases/super spreader events, promptly send samples for genome sequencing in consultation with NCDC,” the ministry said.
The Union Health Secretary has urged the Uttarakhand government to take a stock of the public health measures being undertaken by the state in consonance with the aforesaid recommendations of the Health Ministry, the statement added.
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