Centre asks J&K to review Covid rise, positivity rate, enhance testing

Sends across similar communication to Himachal, Andhra Pradesh
Centre asks J&K to review Covid rise, positivity rate, enhance testing
Health workers cross a makeshift bridge in Doodhpathri area of central Kashmir's Budgam to administer COVID-19 jabs to people.File: Mubashir Khan/ GK

New Delhi: The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday asked Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir to undertake a review of rising COVID-19 cases and weekly positivity rates, and enhance testing.

In letters to the Himachal Pradesh health secretary, Andhra Pradesh principal secretary of health and the Jammu and Kashmir additional chief secretary of health, Additional Secretary, Union Health Ministry, Arti Ahuja highlighted the increase in weekly new Covid cases since last week (October 26-November 1) and early signs of rise in positivity rates since the past four weeks till October 31.

Ahuja also stressed on strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate behaviour, especially during festivities.

Previously on October 30, Ahuja had written to West Bengal and Assam, expressing concerns over the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the states.

In her letter to Himachal Pradesh, Ahuja pointed that there has been a nearly 22 per cent increase in weekly new cases since last week 1,468 infections in the week of October 26-November 1, as against 1,201 in the week of October 19-25 and that there are early signs of increase in positivity since the past four weeks 2.7 per cent in the week of October 4-10 to 3.3 per cent in the week of October 25-31.

"Three districts of the state Kangra, Bilaspur and Shimla have been identified as districts of concern due to high quantum of cases and positivity more than 2.5 per cent," the letter read.

"It is reassuring to note that the state has witnessed a gradual increase in the tests conducted from 38,726 in the week of October 4-10 to 44,549 in the week of October 25-31. Although because of the rising positivity, the state needs to conduct enhanced testing while maintaining the required RT-PCR share as it will aid in early identification of infection in the state," Ahuja said.

Andhra Pradesh, she pointed out, has shown a high quantum of weekly new cases over the past four weeks, and although the weekly positivity is less than 2.5 per cent, it has stayed stagnant for the past two weeks.

The state has also witnessed a decline in tests conducted from 2,82,959 in the week of October 04-10 to 2,41,838 in the week of October 25-31, she said.

"East Godavari district has been identified as a district of concern due to high quantum of cases and positivity over 2.5 per cent. The district had a high quantum of cases in the week ending October 31," the officer highlighted.

As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, Ahuja stated that the union territory has shown an approximately 61 per cent increase in weekly new cases 1,354 the week of October 25-31 as against 843 cases in the week of October 18-24.

Although the weekly positivity is less than one per cent, there has been a 67 per cent increase in positivity since the last two weeks from 0.3 per cent in the week of October 18-24 to 0.5 per cent in the week of October 25-31.

Ahuja said the UT has also witnessed a decline in tests conducted and underlined that because of the rising positivity, it needed to conduct enhanced testing.

"One district of the state Kathua has been identified as a district of concern due to high quantum of cases and positivity over 2.5 per cent. The district had high quantum of cases in the week ending October 31.

"Kathua has reported a positivity rate of more than five per cent in the week ending October 31 i.e., 8.13 per cent along with an increasing trend in the weekly positivity rate over a period of last three weeks," the letter stated.

"It has been observed that COVID-19 cases surge exponentially where basic public health strategy (Testing, Tracking, Treatment, COVID appropriate behaviour and Vaccination) is not followed rigorously," Ahuja wrote.

The officer also stressed on proper implementation of containment zones, increased focus on house-to-house search for active cases within these zones, strict and daily monitoring of cases under home isolation and their referral to hospitals, and strengthening contact-tracing of positive people and review of containment zones.

Besides, there should be a detailed district-wise and facility-wise analysis of deaths including a review of fatalities that happen within 24 and 72 hours of hospitalisation to resolve problems related with late hospital admission and the need for monitoring treatment practices, the letter stated.

It also underlined the importance of strict adherence to National Treatment Protocols, augmenting ICU, oxygen beds and ventilator capacity, and ramping up testing figures, while maintaining the share of RT-PCR tests, besides aiming for 100 per cent first vaccine dose coverage of the eligible population and increasing the pace of the second dose.

As far as super spreader events and places are concerned, there should be strict surveillance and monitoring as per SOPs of the ministry and testing as per ICMR guidelines, besides,ensuring COVID-19-appropriate behaviour, the letter added.

It emphasised on routine submission of RT-PCR positive samples from international travellers as well as those from the community for genomic analysis at the designated INSACDG network laboratory as per laid down protocols.

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