The centre on Sunday warned the three worst-affected states namely Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab that Covid-19 safety protocols were being flouted by people in 50 of their districts thus urging them to implement stricter measures.
The warning came after the central teams who visited the states last week found a lack of surveillance measures being taken by the state administrations, especially in containment zones.On the basis of the feedback received from the central teams, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to the concerned states asking them to ‘Plug the loopholes’, a report by Hindustan Times claimed.
Inadequate testing using RT-PCR tests, insufficient manpower on Covid-19 duty were among the observations made by the central teams. As per sources, the teams sent to Maharashtra found containment operations sub-optimal, especially in the Satara, Sangli and Aurangabad districts. As per findings, the testing capacity in some districts like Satara, Bhandara, Palghar, Amravati, Jalna etc was also found to be overwhelming.Talking to the Hindustan Times, a senior health ministry official expressed his concern about the skewed RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing ratio observed in many districts which needed to improved. He, therefore, said that 70% of the tests being conducted to detect Covid-19 need to be done through RT-PCR since rapid antigen test is meant to be used in containment zones where mass testing is required to know the spread of disease in a short interval.
‘It cannot be used to replace RT-PCR test’ the minister was quoted saying.
The findings by the central team led to further revelations. Some districts were found reporting a large number of cases from outside containment zones, to which the Centre advised the states to expand containment areas or to notify new zones that adequate surveillance measures be taken immediately.According to a report by Hindustan Times, the team from Raipur and Jashpur found a lack of perimeter control in containment zones in Chhattisgarh, with no restriction on movement of people inside these zones.
Follow-ups on the Covid-19 patients kept under home isolation in Satara district was also not being done which might be necessary to minimise mortality, the central team revealed.
Another issue flagged by the expert teams was the shortage of RT-PCR testing facilities in Korba, Durg, and Balod districts and the need for adopting enhanced contact tracing measures, especially in Punjab’s Patiala and Ludhiana.
‘There is no RT-PCR testing laboratory in Rupnagar. This has been addressed urgently. There is no dedicated Covid hospital in SAS Nagar and Rupnagar districts, and patients are being referred to neighbouring districts or Chandigarh.ln Rupnagar, although ventilators are available, these are not being optimally utilised due to shortage of health care workforce, particularly doctors and nurses…,” the expert team noted.
A host of solutions were also provided by the Centre to the problems addressed by the expert teams. The Centre advised the state to make contractual hiring of health care workers as per its additional requirement. Stricter ground-level enforcement of rules was also suggested by the centre to enable Covid-appropriate behaviour among the general public.“There is also a need for enhancing community-level surveillance so that no case is missed, for as long we keep missing cases, the virus will continue to spread,” said Jacob John, former virology head, CMC, Vellore told Hindusthan Times.