6 states continue to record spike in Covid cases: Centre
The observations from the Union health ministry come a day after the country reported the largest single-day increase in new Covid-19 infections in two months.
At least six states are seeing a strong resurgence of new infections of Covid-19 in recent weeks, the central government said on Sunday, as it deputed high-level teams comprising public health experts to two states of particular concern – Maharashtra and Punjab – to assist local governments in surveillance, control and containment measures.
Government experts pointed out that a reduction in testing, with a “particularly low share of gold-standard RT-PCR tests”, inadequate contact-tracing of positive cases, and uncontrolled gatherings during the wedding season were some of the reasons behind the spike in cases.
The observations from the Union health ministry come a day after the country reported the largest single-day increase in new Covid-19 infections in two months. This abrupt resurgence in cases has brought forth fears of the start of a nationwide second wave of Covid-19 at a time when a new phase of vaccination, which covers the most vulnerable sections of the general public, started a week ago and is only beginning to pick up pace.
Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu were identified by the Centre as the six regions that have seen a rise in new cases in the recent weeks. These six collectively accounted for 84.7% of the 18,711 new daily cases reported on Saturday — the highest single-day increase in cases since January 6.
India’s worst-hit state, Maharashtra, with 2.2 million infections and more than 52,000 deaths, is again reporting the most new infections in the country — the state reported 11,141 new cases on Sunday. It is followed by Kerala, the second worst-hit region with 1.07 million cases, which reported 2,100 new infections and Punjab, which reported 1,051 new cases on Sunday.
A total of 18,643 cases were reported across the country on Sunday, according to HT’s Covid-19 dashboard. The seven-day average of new cases (also known as the Covid curve) currently is at 16,744, the highest in nearly two months, a statistic that has alarmed experts.
The Centre, meanwhile, deputed high-level teams comprising at least three public health experts to two states – Maharashtra and Punjab – in order to assist local governments in surveillance, control and containment measures.
“The idea behind sending expert teams is to get to the root of why the cases have suddenly seen a surge, and accordingly suggest appropriate measures to control it. So far, it looks like the increase in cases could be due to large gatherings where Covid-19-appropriate behaviour is not observed, especially with the wedding season and a fall in Covid-19 testing,” said a senior government official familiar with the developments, asking not to be named.
Two other regions that are showing an upward trend of new infections, according to the Centre, are Delhi and Haryana. At a high-level meeting held with representatives of eight states and Union Territories on Saturday, the Centre expressed concern regarding nine districts in Delhi, 15 in Haryana, 10 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Odisha, nine in Himachal Pradesh, seven in Uttarakhand, two in Goa, and one in Chandigarh.
Government experts had observed that increase in weekly positivity in these districts appeared largely due to reduced overall testing, with a “particularly low share of real-time reverse polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test”, and inadequate contact tracing of positive cases. They have been directed to increase the share of RT-PCR testing, demarcate containment areas, carry out close contact-tracing of minimum of 20 people per positive case, appropriate clinical management of patients, and be particularly vigilant about any superspreader events.
Experts say increasing Covid-19 vaccination in these high load areas holds the key in breaking the chain of transmission. “This will prevent any sort of second wave. Also, covering the entire vulnerable population fast will take us ahead of the virus,” said Dr Giridhara R Babu, professor and head, life-course epidemiology, Indian Institute of Public Health.
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