Centre asks UTs to impose curbs, ramp up testing

With India’s covid-19 cases doubling in just 11 days, Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and health secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a high-level meeting on Tuesday to review the situation and devise a covid management and response strategy with chief secretaries of all Union territories.

On 20 April, India reported 273,000 fresh cases, compared to 131,000 cases on 9 April. The numbers are even more staggering considering that on 1 January India had reported 20,000 daily cases, but since 15 April it has clocked over 200,000 cases every day.

The meeting, held through video conferencing, was also attended by Dr V.K. Paul, member (health) NITI Aayog, Dr Balram Bhargava, secretary, department of health research (DHR), and director general-Indian Journal of Medical Research (ICMR). The director generals of police from all UTs were also present.

UTs presented a detailed report on the number of new cases for every week, RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests, positivity rate and deaths, besides measures taken to contain the spread of the infection, and management of positive cases. Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Lakshadweep said the rise in cases was due to a large number of inbound travellers.

Lakshadweep saw a sudden spike in covid cases since 14 April, following huge influx of tourists to the mainland for shopping during the festivities. Movement restrictions, such as night curfews, restriction in intra-island movement are being strictly followed to contain the pandemic, UTs said. Chandigarh is conducting a door -to-door campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated, while mobile teams were deployed to monitor 90% of all positive patients who are in home isolation.

Bhalla urged UTs to keep a strict vigil on the evolving situation, and enforce covid-appropriate behaviour among the masses. He said UTs must impose movement restrictions, regulate market timings and prohibit gatherings. The home secretary advised UTs to increase RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests, besides ramping up hospital infrastructure.

Expressing concerns over the scenario, Paul said the next three weeks will be critical for covid-19 response measures, and urged UT administrations to plan in advance, and conduct a survey to identify covid- positive people. Islands can be turned into large containment zones, he suggested.

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