New Delhi: Delhi — taken as a single administrative unit — is now among the top 10 Covid-affected districts in India, the central government said Tuesday. Maharashtra, one of the worst-hit states, accounts for eight of these districts.
Daily cases in Delhi have risen over 10 times to 1,535 on 24 March, from 132 on 10 February. On 29 March, 1,904 cases were reported before a sharp drop in cases as well as tests conducted on Holi.
While Delhi technically has 11 districts, it is being treated as “one administrative unit” for the purposes of mapping Covid cases, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at the coronavirus briefing.
The districts with the most number of active Covid cases are Pune (59,475), Mumbai (46,248), Nagpur (45,322), Thane (35,264), Nashik (26,553) Aurangabad (21,282), Bengaluru Urban (16,259), Nanded (15,171), Delhi (8,032), and Ahmednagar (7,952).
Maharashtra remains the most worrying state, with its test positivity rate — the number of positive diagnoses among tests conducted — crossing 23 per cent in the last one week. Among the other high-burden states are Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Punjab.
“The situation is going from bad to worse. This is a serious cause for concern. No state, no part of our country should be complacent. The trends show that the virus is still very active and can penetrate our defences,” said Dr V.K. Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog.
Even as the daily numbers are surging — 56,211 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours across the country — vaccinations continue to lag in pace. Since the start of the vaccination programme on 16 January, India has fully vaccinated just about 90 lakh people. This comprises 37,11,221 frontline workers, 51,88,747 healthcare workers, and 1,988 people above 60 years or aged 45-59 years with comorbidities.
From 1 April, vaccinations will open up for all aged above 45 years. Both pre-registrations and walk-ins are allowed, but the latter will only be entertained after 3 pm.
“We have been taking pride in our case fatality ratio and, thankfully, it continues to be low but without effective contact tracing and quarantine of contacts, chains of transmission will continue to be active,” said Paul.
The Union health secretary Tuesday wrote to all states, calling for districts to draw up individual action plans to curb the spread of Covid-19.
‘Low share of vaccination in private hospitals’
The share of private hospitals in the vaccination programme varies by state but remains fairly low in many places.
Nationally, just 16.53 per cent of the vaccinations have taken place in the private sector, the government said. State-wise figures range from 50 per cent in Chandigarh to 17 per cent in Uttarakhand.
In Delhi, 43.11 per cent of the vaccinations were administered in the private sector. At a meeting with high-burden districts last week, the central government urged district and state administrations to increase private participation and aim at saturation coverage among eligible groups.
“We need better participation from the private sector. There are currently about 6,000 vaccination sites in the private sector while there are some 20,000 registered hospitals. We need them to step up if we are to accomplish the job of vaccinations the quickest,” Paul said.
Despite questions, the government did not give the number of people it aims to cover when vaccinations open up for those above 45 years. “Numbers do not matter,” said Bhushan.
Health secretary writes to state chief secretaries
Bhushan Tuesday wrote to state governments outlining the steps that need to be taken to stem the current rise, especially since the virus seems to be making a strong comeback in the same states that saw a high number of cases between August and November 2020.
Among the measures outlined are tracing 25-30 contacts per positive case, isolation, and larger containment zones. “Test, track, treat” remains the key, he said. He asked for all districts to draw up individual action plans.
“Each district, irrespective of whether it is seeing a surge right now or is with a current low burden, should make a district action plan with clear timelines and responsibilities,” Bhushan wrote in the letter, accessed by ThePrint.
The elements of the plan are mapping of cases based on surveillance activities and focused testing in areas, reviewing sub-area (urban and rural) indicators like test positivity rate, rate of growth of cases, case fatality rate, doubling rate etc, reviewing the geographical spread of infection daily, setting up an emergency operation centre, and formation of containment zones.
He also said that Covid-appropriate behaviour — masking and distancing — needs to be reinforced — if needed, by using the Police Act.
“All districts with high case load and fast growth of cases must ensure hundred per cent saturation vaccination of the priority age group of 45 years and above in the coming two weeks,” Bhushan wrote.
Replying to a question during the briefing, he said there was no proposal from the Maharashtra government for door-to-door vaccinations. Given that this is a programme for vaccinating adults using newly developed vaccines, there were safety concerns in taking the activity outside hospital settings, he added.
Out of a total of 11,064 samples that have been analysed for different variants since December, 807 were found to have the UK variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus, 47 had the South African variant, and one had the Brazilian variant, the government said.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General Dr Balram Bhargava said both vaccines currently in use in the country — Covaxin and Covishield — have been found to be effective against the UK and the South African variants while studies are on to determine their efficacy on the Brazilian variant.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)