Govt scales up testing in containment zones
The Delhi government has issued fresh guidelines under which residents of containment zones who are identified as contacts of Covid-19 cases, people with influenza-like symptoms, and high-risk individuals will be tested thrice through rapid antigen kits within 15 days of sealing an area, senior government officials said on Friday.
The order, issued by the director-general of health services, and which has been reviewed by HT, said that the same set of people, all of whom will be identified during the formation of a containment zone, will be screened and tested between the first and third day of sealing an area, then again between the fifth and seventh day, and, finally, once again, between the 13th and 15th day.
“Their health records will be saved in a database and they shall be asked to visit the nearest antigen test centres. The objective of the strategy is to get a better picture in terms of local transmission so that the government’s ongoing testing efforts can be enhanced for better accuracy,” said a senior government official who did not wish to be identified.
High-risk individuals include people aged above 60 years, pregnant women, those with severe acute respiratory illnesses and those with comorbidities, said health department officials.
Dr Lalit Kant, former Head, Division of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research said, “By employing this strategy it will be possible to test as many people as possible who may have come in contact with the infected individual in the entire period in which they are capable of infecting others. By tracking, testing, and treating these people, it will allow early detection of disease thereby limiting further spread of the infection.”
Jugal Kishore, head of the community medicines department in Safdarjung Hospital, said: “Such a strategy can help the government in assessing the prevalence of the disease and get a better picture concerning local transmission so that testing drives in future can be better strategised for more accuracy.”
The new guidelines came even as the number of containment zones in the Capital rose from 458 to 563 between Wednesday and Friday, with several existing ones being split , government data showed. This move is a part of the government’s new delineation strategy for containment zones under which Covid-19 clusters are identified within existing containment zones and they are divided into multiple units of no-go zones.
The first round of the delineation strategy was implemented between June 26 and 28, and the number of containment zones in the city rose from 280 to 421. “The strategy has two objectives. First, fewer people remain in containment zones. It is a matter of inconvenience and the government acknowledges that. Second, smaller containment units allow for stronger and more focused surveillance efforts,” said an official in the revenue department who asked not to be named.
Containment zones in Hari Nagar, Tilak Vihar, Badarpur, Sangam Vihar, Meet Nagar, GTB Nagar, Jahangirpuri, Mahendru Enclave, Alipur, Malkaganj and Pratap Nagar are among those that have been split under the government’s new delineation strategy.
Kishore said, “However, it is high time that the Delhi government revisits its overall containment policy. Now that a large number of people are apparently adhering to home isolation norms on being diagnosed Covid-19 positive, the government may limit its policy to areas where it is absolutely necessary.