A central team has warned that the state of Maharashtra is at the ‘beginning of a second wave’ prompting the Union government to tell the state to focus on strict containment strategies
With India reporting over 20,000 coronavirus cases for the sixth consecutive day, the Central Government Tuesday officially said that the country is witnessing a second “peak” in coronavirus cases since 2 February, but avoided referring to it as “second wave”, a term used to mark the second surge in cases.
“After the peak of the epi-curve was witnessed in mid-September 2020, COVID-19 cases continued to decline till 2 February, 2021, after which the trajectory showed an upward trend,” Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a central team has warned that the state of Maharashtra, which has continued to report the highest number of cases in the country for at least the past two months, is at the “beginning” of a second COVID-19 wave prompting the Union government to tell the state to focus on strict containment strategies.
India recorded 24,492 new COVID-19 cases taking the infection tally past 1.14 crore, the Union Health Ministry said. These numbers are based on the data shared by the health ministry at 8 am on 16 March, and doesn’t include the cases reported by various states since then. An updated data will be released by the Centre at 8 am tomorrow (17 March).
The total cases rose to 1,14,09,831, while the death toll increased to 1,58,856, with 131 fresh fatalities, data showed.
Registering a spike in cases for the sixth day in a row, the active caseload has increased to 2,23,432, which now comprises 1.96 percent of the total infections, the ministry said.
The recovery rate has further dropped to 96.65 percent, it added. The recovery rate on Monday was recorded at 96.68; on 5 March it was at around 97 percent.
Centre’s team presents worrying situation in Maharashtra
A report by a central team after visiting Maharashtra highlighted that there is “very limited active” effort to track, test, isolate cases and quarantine contacts, and there is no adherence to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour among people in rural and urban areas.
The state recorded 17,864 new cases, the highest one-day rise this year, and 87 deaths, a health official said.
Based on the report, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan shot off a letter to the Maharashtra government, stating “measures such as night curfews, weekend lockdowns, etc, have very limited impact on containing/suppressing the transmission” and urged the state to focus on strict containment strategies, strengthening surveillance and augmenting testing.
In the letter to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, Bhushan said even though the health infrastructure is adequate as of now, the state should plan for a “worse-case scenario” with sufficient lead time.
The central team which visited the western state from 7-11 March inferred in its report that the administrative mechanism should be re-instated to the level witnessed in August-September 2020 to contain/suppress COVID transmission.
“ln all the districts visited by the central team, the test positivity rate was high, ranging from 51 percent in Mumbai to 30 percent in Aurangabad, implying that there are lot many cases that are not being tested and there is high transmission in the community,” the report underlined.
ln view of limited contact tracing, a large pool of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people among contacts are not tracked and tested, the report added. It also stressed that testing must be considerably enhanced and protocol laid down by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) be followed.
“The absence of rigorous tracing, testing and containment is leading to sustained community transmission.
“The high-risk contacts in workplace settings, social settings and family settings were not investigated and listed,” the report highlighted.
Referring to the findings of the team, Union Health Secretary Bhushan said that containment strategy needs to be re-introduced, containment zones must be better defined based on contact listing, digital mapping of cases and contacts and should be much larger to include the area of influence of cases/ contacts.
“The buffer zones need to be delineated. The perimeter control needs to be strictly enforced. For each containment zone, the Rapid Response Teams should develop an operational plan,” he added.
Bhushan also stressed augmenting testing to bring the test positivity rate to less than 5 percent and strengthening surveillance by active house to house search for active cases/contacts in containment zones (as per the containment plan).
“The Incident Command under the leadership of district collector and municipal commissioner should be actively re-instated with the whole of government approach to contain/ suppress the transmission. This should be monitored at the highest level,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has also responded to the impending health emergency by amping up vaccination and demanding more doses from the centre to further scale up the drive.
A record 2,64,897 people received coronavirus vaccines in Maharashtra on Tuesday, officials said.
This was the highest number of people vaccinated in a day in the state since the inoculation drive began in January, an official said. The tally of those who have received vaccine reached 31,33,612.
The state further demanded 2.20 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses from the Centre in view of the surge in cases.
Restrictions imposed in some states
In view of the rising coronavirus cases in Madhya Pradesh, the state government has decided to impose a night curfew in Bhopal and Indore municipal areas and also ordered the closure of shops at 10 pm in eight other cities. The restrictions would come into force from Wednesday, an official said in Bhopal.
The decision was taken by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after reviewing the COVID-19 situation at a meeting with senior officials, he said.
The night curfew will be in place in Indore and Bhopal cities from 10 pm to 6 am, an order issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Dr Rajesh Rajora said.
Shops will be closed after 10 pm in Jabalpur, Gwalior, Ujjain, Ratlam, Chhindwara, Burhanpur, Betul and Khargone, the official said.
On Holi, no public programmes will be allowed, but the festival can be celebrated by individuals.
In Gujarat, which is also witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, the state government decided to increase the night curfew timings in four major cities by two hours.
The curfew will now remain in force in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot from 10 pm to 6 am, an official statement said. The curfew timings earlier were from 12 am to 6 am.
The decision was taken at the core committee meeting of the coronavirus task-force headed by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge in Karnataka, the state government said it would launch a slew of advertisements to create awareness on the following protocol and increase the vaccination drive to contain the spread.
Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar warned that stringent measures would be put in place if people continued to flout government guidelines on wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
Meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Tuesday asked schools in Mumbai to discontinue 50 percent rotational attendance for teachers and other staff from Wednesday.
Instead, schools should ask all the teachers to take their classes under the ‘Work from Home’ pattern using e-learning and online platforms till further orders, the education department of the BMC said.
Earlier, from 18 November, the civic body had allowed 50 percent of teachers and non-teaching staff to attend the schools on a rotation basis for online, offline classes and other work.
On Monday, the Maharashtra government had imposed a week-long lockdown with strict restrictions in Nagpur district to contain the rise in COVID-19 cases.
The state government had also issued an order stating that cinema halls, hotels, restaurants and offices except those related to health and essential services in Maharashtra will function at 50 percent capacity till 31 March.
With inputs from PTI
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