COVID-19: Centre writes to Ladakh, Puducherry over rising coronavirus cases; urges caution

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A rapid response team must be constituted according to the INSACOG guidelines for detailed investigation of mutations reported through the INSACOG.

Highlights

  • The Health Ministry has urged the UTs to take pre-emptive action to gain control over the situation
  • A decrease has been noted in the proportion of RT-PCR testing in the Union Territory

In view of the rising weekly coronavirus cases, testing and positivity rate in Puducherry and Ladakh, the Union Health Ministry on Saturday wrote to the Union Territories (UTs) urging them to take pre-emptive action to gain control over the situation.

Earlier, the ministry had asked state governments of Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir to undertake a review and enhance testing in view of rising cases of COVID-19 and weekly positivity rates.

In a letter to the principal secretary (Health) of Ladakh this week, Additional Secretary in the Union Health Ministry Arti Ahuja said the Union Territory has reported a 362 per cent increase in weekly new cases from 34 cases in the week ending on October 27 to 157 cases in the week ending on November 17.

It is also worrying to note that the Union Territory has exhibited an increase of more than 156 per cent in weekly positivity from 1.5 per cent in the week ending on October 26 to 3.9 per cent in the week ending on November 16.

“Further, worrying trends with regards to weekly cases, testing and positivity rate have been observed in various districts. Increase in number of weekly new cases: Leh district has exhibited a significant increase of more than 362 per cent in weekly new cases from 35 in the week ending on October 27 to 139 in the week ending on November 17. This is especially concerning given the geographical expanse of the district,” Ahuja said.

Leh has also recorded a 143 per cent increase in weekly positivity rate from 1.98 per cent in the week ending on October 26 to 4.81 per cent in the week ending on November 16.

Although there has been an increasing trend of weekly tests conducted in the Union Territory, a decrease has been noted in the proportion of RT-PCR testing. Kargil (26.8 per cent) has recorded less than the government mandate of 70 per cent RT PCR contribution.

The officer advised to conduct a greater number of RT-PCR tests to capture a more accurate picture of the Covid public health situation in the Union Territory.

“It has been observed that cases surge exponentially where basic public health strategy (Testing. Tracking. Treatment, Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination) is not followed rigorously. The current trends of decrease in RT-PCR testing, increase in new cases and case positivity if left unchecked may lead to a situation where there is severe strain on the health infrastructure and health workforce,” Ahuja said in the letter.

In addition to strict compliance with basic health strategy, the Union Territory has been asked to ensure routine submission of RT-PCR positive samples from international travelers as well as from community for genomic analysis at the designated INSACOG network laboratory as per laid down protocols.

Additionally, positive samples from suspected vaccine breakthrough infections, super-spreader events and clusters of cases with high mortality and/or morbidity must also be sent for genomic analysis, the letter said.

A rapid response team must be constituted according to the INSACOG guidelines for detailed investigation of mutations reported through the INSACOG.

“As presently various events such as marriages and festive celebrations are taking place, it is critical to maintain sufficient level of testing across all districts to ensure timely detection of cases,” Ajuha said in the letter.

States must emphasise the importance of Covid safe festivities and ensure strict adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour along with prioritising the second dose coverage of eligible beneficiaries, she said.

“Regular review of COVID-19 cases and deaths must also be undertaken, and necessary corrective measures be promptly communicated to the field teams. Lastly, it should also be ensured that the dist consistency in data up-dation on the Covid-19 portal,” the letter said.

On October 30, Ahuja had also written to West Bengal and Assam expressing concern over the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

Ahuja in her letter to the Puducherry principal secretary (health) said it has reported 41.7 per cent increase in weekly new cases from 168 cases in the week ending on November 9 to 238 cases in the week ending on November 16.

Worrying trends with regards to weekly cases and positivity rate have been observed in various districts of the state, she said.

Three districts out of four have reported an increase in weekly new cases. Karaikal district has exhibited an increase of more than 29 per cent in weekly new cases from 49 in the week ending on November 9 to 63 in the week ending on November 16, Pondicherry district has exhibited an increase of more than 30 per cent in weekly new cases from 84 in the week ending on November 9 to 109 cases reported in the week ending on November 16.

Yanam shows a continuous increase of new cases from the past four weeks, 85 per cent new cases from 13 in the week ending on November 9 to 24 cases reported in the week ending on November 16.

Although there has been an increasing trend in weekly tests conducted, there is a disproportion noted in Antigen and RT-PCR testing.

“All four districts Karaikal (27.45 per cent), Mahe (1.59 per cent), Pondicherry (32.57 per cent) and Yanam (0.59 per cent) have less RT-PCR contribution than the government mandate of 70 per cent RT PCR contribution. State is advised to conduct a greater number of RT-PCR tests,” the letter added. 

(with PTI inputs)

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