New Delhi: Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan chaired a high-level review meeting with Health Ministers, Additional Chief Secretaries and Principal Secretaries (Health) of States/UTs of Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan. These states have been reporting very high rise in daily cases and daily mortality because of COVID-19 in the last two weeks. The meeting to review and discuss the COVID management and response strategy, and vaccination progress, held through video conference, was attended by senior health professionals of the States/UTs along with the Union Health Secretary, DG ICMR, NITI Aayog Empowered Group members, Professor Balram Bhargava, Director General of ICMR, Dr. Sunil Kumar, Director General of DGHS, Dr Sujeet Kumar Singh, NCDC and representatives from Home Ministry.
Through a detailed presentation and comprehensive presentation, the Union Health Minister highlighted the current trajectory of COVID new cases and deaths in the States/UTs, India’s Public Health Response in terms of testing, laboratories. It was observed that since 1st March 2021, the country has seen a spurt rise in COVID new cases and deaths. Through more granular presentation, state-wise details of active cases, recovered cases, testing, deaths, Case Fatality Rate, Cases per million and death per million in each state was also discussed.
Dr Harsh Vardhan also stressed upon the cases with mutant virus. He also discussed a detailed summary of the number of SARS-CoV-2 with mutations in certain states of India.
With respect to new mutant strain, it was observed:
So far, no linkage has been seen with surge in Covid-19 cases due to foreign travellers.
Currently, the SARS-CoV-2 variants detected in the community have been prevalent since last 6-8 months.
Various states that are witnessing surges in cases have revealed different mutation profile, post-sequencing.
After detailed and comprehensive review of the measures taken by the States/UTs, the Union Health Minister concluded that these 11 States together contribute to 54% of the total cases & 65% of the total deaths in the Country. The disproportionate higher deaths in Maharashtra and Punjab have further increased during the last 14 days, contributing to 64% of the total deaths in the Country. Since February 2021, these states have witnessed a steep increase in cases, majority of which was reported in the younger population (among 15-44 years of age). On the other hand, majority of the deaths have been reported among the elderly population (> 60 years). Maharashtra (25%) and Chhattisgarh (14%) have reported highest positivity rate. It was also observed that during the past 4 weeks testing has increased but RAT proportion is very high in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh & Chhattisgarh – Caution urged in Maharashtra w.r.t. RAT %. Another worrisome aspect pointed out was that the testing capacity of the private sector is underutilized in many states and visiting teams gave feedback, which indicates the laxity in following CAB, CZ activities and increased social gatherings. From all this, it is visible that our 3 tools- following Covid appropriate behaviour, containing the infection and vaccination were not implemented efficiently which gave rise to the present situation of the country.
In order to curb the resurgence of the pandemic, the States were advised on strengthening of public and private healthcare resources. They were specifically asked to:
Strengthen Covid Appropriate Behaviour: masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene.
Limiting social/public gatherings.
Implement “Test, Track, Treat” efficiently.
Quarantining and testing the individuals suspected to be positive including close contacts of positive persons (at least 25 to 30 contacts per positive person).
Implement containment zone guidelines effectively.
Enhance vaccination pace – as per the protocol
Dr. Harsh Vardhan also assured everyone that the Centre will continually replenish the vaccine stock and urged the states to vaccinate the prioritized groups in mission made. He said, “No State Government can complain that because of vaccine shortage, we have not been able to vaccinate”.