SRINAGAR: In the backdrop of recent surge in the COVID-19 cases across the country, the Cabinet Secretary, Rajiv Gauba, in a high-level meeting with the Chief Secretaries directed all the States and Union Territories to strictly implement test, trace, treat strategy, COVID appropriate behaviour and vaccination to address the challenging situation of sharp rise in the number of COVID cases.
Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam along with Financial Commissioner, Health & Medical Education, Principal Secretary, Home, ADGP (Coordination) and Mission Director, National Health Mission participated in the meeting.
While reviewing the situation, the Cabinet Secretary said that the country over the past few weeks has witnessed a sharp rise in COVID cases, there has been almost a ten-fold increase in the number of new cases reported in February earlier this year and now, he said.
Considering the deterioration in the COVID scenario, the Cabinet Secretary emphasised that it is time once again a comprehensive approach of the Governments in the States/UTs is adopted to meet the challenge. Attributing the sudden rise in cases to complacency in the community as a result of slight improvement in the numbers ending 2020, the Cabinet Secretary informed that certain states have already crossed their previously reported peaks in the number of cases.
The Cabinet Secretary reiterated that vaccination alone is no panacea to the problem but needs strictly to go hand-in-hand with testing, tracing, containment and enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour. He added, “a clear message needs to go from top-level to the entire state machinery that all weapons in the armoury are required to be utilized along with vaccination to deal with the problem”.
The Cabinet Secretary urged the States/UTs to ensure a multi-sectoral response in addition to swift vaccination drives to cover the maximum population of the target age groups to prevent subsequent waves of infection especially in the wake of the emergence of mutant strains of the virus.
He advised the States/UTs to ardently promote COVID appropriate behaviour, improve the rate of testing especially in districts that are falling short of target quotas, increase the share of RTPCR tests viz-a-viz RATs, adopt refocused & stringent containment strategies and undertake priority vaccination with provisions of geographically targeted vaccination in clusters witnessing a surge in COVID cases.
In a brief presentation during the meeting the Health Secretary informed that there has been a sharp growth in the daily reported cases and the average daily deaths across the country since June last year, it was told that 11 states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Punjab, Chhattisgarh etc., are contributing maximum number of cases and deaths due to COVID-19 in the country.
Besides, testing, contact tracing, and containment the presentation also focused on strengthening of public private healthcare resources including isolation beds, oxygen beds, adequate oxygen supply and strengthening of ambulance services. It also underlined ensuring of COVID appropriate behaviour through legal and administrative provisions. Saturation vaccination of priority age groups in districts reporting surge with a help of time-bound plan was also highlighted.
The States/Union territories were advised to have the district action plans prepared and also to review hospital wise case fatality rate and then to devise a plan to address the issue.
During the meeting I&B Secretary also gave out a communication strategy to mitigate laxity in observance of COVID-19 precautions, false sense of confidence, vaccine hesitancy and communication fatigue.
Various states including Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh etc, also gave a brief on assessment of the situation in their respective states during the meeting.
The Chief Secretary, J&K informed that the government of Jammu and Kashmir would be carrying out a fast-track vaccination drive to cover all persons in the eligible age groups in four districts including Jammu, Srinagar, Budgam and Baramulla showing maximum number of COVID cases.
He added that through concerted efforts the Government is consistently monitoring the COVID trajectory among its local population with a special focus on districts with an increased tourist footfall.