As part of new containment strategy, RT-PCR tests for all ‘high-risk’ residents of Delhi’s hot spots
As part of a revised policy for containment zones in the city likely to be enforced next week, districts in Delhi may continue with the micro-containment policy in terms of size of sealed areas, even as testing and surveillance are scaled up in these places to better arrest the spread of Covid-19.
Under the current containment strategy in the Capital, district administrations are entrusted with conducting RT-PCR tests on all symptomatic people and contacts of positive cases.
Under the revised policy, district administrations expected to, inside containment zones, be required to conduct RT-PCR tests, the most reliable diagnosis for the coronavirus disease, on all residents aged above 60, pregnant women, and individuals with comorbidities, irrespective of symptoms or direct contact with active cases, said senior government officials aware of the new policy.
They further said, districts will have to ensure follow-up health checks on such “high-risk” individuals periodically even after the containment zones are de-notified.
Currently, over 220,000 people live in Delhi’s 5,200-odd containment zones spread across the city’s 11 revenue districts.
The revised policy – drafted by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) – is likely to be implemented from Monday, senior officials said, adding that district magistrates had been briefed about the strategy by chief secretary Vijay Dev earlier this week.
In his meeting with Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on November 15, Union home minister Amit Shah had recommended a revised containment policy for Delhi in the light of the severe spike in cases and increased number of deaths. Baijal is the chairperson of the DDMA and Kejriwal the vice-chairperson.
“The policy of micro containment zones will continue. Micro containment zones have enabled the government to spread out and cover a larger share of active cases and contacts. Tests and surveillance in the containment zones will be further scaled up,” Delhi’s revenue minister Kailash Gahlot, who is also a member of the DDMA, said.
A similar testing policy covering all elderly people and “high-risk” individuals living inside containment zones was implemented once in June, when Delhi had witnessed the first instance of severe spike in Covid-19 cases. However, those tests were conducted the rapid antigen method, which though faster, is known to be far less accurate than the RT-PCR method.
“As cases went down, the testing policy was revised. Even though rapid antigen tests show results quickly, it was a massive exercise because containment zones were much larger back then,” said a senior revenue department official who did not wish to be identified.
The current policy of RT-PCR tests on all symptomatic people and contacts of Covid-19 cases living inside containment zones was implemented in mid-September when Delhi witnessed the second instance of surge of Covid-19 infections.
In November the city witnessed the third – and the most severe so far – spike in cases, which necessitated the revised strategy.
Dr Jacob John, former head of clinical virology, Christian Medical College in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, said: “These are all welcome moves from a health management perspective. Micro containment zones are easier to manage. RT-PCR tests on more people would help in isolating more Covid-19 cases and ensuring that these containment zones do not turn into hotspots at any point. As far as recordkeeping of the elderly and vulnerable are concerned, it should be done across Delhi now. Follow-up checks are very important in Covid-19 and it is not a labour-intensive job as well.”