Monitor 27 districts very closely for Covid: Centre
States must keep a strict watch in 27 districts that have reported Covid-19 test positivity rates of 5% and above, the Union health ministry said on Saturday, even as a 35-year-old man with travel history to Zimbabwe and South Africa became the second patient in Delhi to test positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
There is a high possibility that Omicron will lead to a new wave of cases wherever it takes hold, experts said. Whether the variant leads to milder disease is unclear, but it is established that it is more resistant, and evidence is now mounting that it could surpass the Delta variant’s transmissibility.
Eight of the 27 districts have reported at least 10% positivity rate for the past two weeks, the Union health ministry said on Saturday. The test positivity rate is the percentage of people who test positive for the disease out of all samples tested.
“With the recent trend of sustained and overall decline in Covid-19 cases in the country, we are critically placed in our fight against the pandemic,” Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote in a letter to all states and Union territories. “Eight districts in three states have been reporting more than 10% positive rates in the past two weeks. Further, 19 districts in 7 states/UTs (Union territories) have been reporting positivity rates between 5% and 10% in the past two weeks. Thus, these 27 districts need to be monitored very closely.”
Delhi reported its second Omicron case on Saturday, with a person having come from Zimbabwe, and who also travelled to South Africa, testing positive for the heavily mutated variant of Sars-CoV-2, according to the Delhi government. The person was fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The patient is undergoing treatment at the Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital in central Delhi. The Delhi government has designated the hospital for isolation and treatment of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 cases. The patient has shown mild symptoms, a government official said, requesting anonymity.
A 37-year-old man who arrived in Delhi from Tanzania earlier was the first case in the national capital who tested positive for the new variant, first identified in South Africa.
India has reported 33 cases of Omicron since the first two cases were detected from Karnataka on December 2. Rajasthan has reported nine Omicron cases, three cases have been reported from Gujarat, 17 from Maharashtra, two from Karnataka, and two cases have been reported from the national capital region.
India has reported less than 0.04% of Omicron cases so far among total variants detected of Sars-CoV-2 virus, and close to 70 clusters are currently under investigation across the country, according to the Union health ministry.
On Saturday, the Centre asked states to maintain a strict watch on the situation, with focused district-level measures for containment of clusters of new cases. Nineteen districts in Kerala, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Manipur, West Bengal and Nagaland have been reporting positivity rates between 5% and 10% in the last two weeks, according to official data.
The eight districts that have reported Covid-19 positivity rates of more than 10% in past two weeks belong to the three states of Mizoram, Kerala and Sikkim, according to the health ministry.
It was in this context that the states needed to heighten vigil, the health secretary said. “In case of any district reporting a surge in cases, or rise in positivity rates, intensive action and local containment as per the containment framework must be initiated,” said Bhushan.
Among strategic containment measures suggested by the Centre in identified areas with test positivity rate of more than 10% are putting night curfew in place, ensuring intermingling of people is restricted, curtailment of attendees in marriages and funerals, etc.
The health ministry has emphasised the importance of testing and surveillance measures, including ramping up Covid-19 diagnosis and active case search, testing of influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory infection cases through rapid antigen tests (RAT) and retesting by RT-PCR of symptomatic RAT negative tests.
“Rapid antigen test may not be as accurate as RT-PCR tests but it is a beneficial tool where caseload is high as positives shown in the test are true positives because of high specificity,” said Dr Amita Jain, head of the microbiology department at King George’s Medical University, Lucknow.