A central team has warned that Maharashtra is at the "beginning" of a second COVID-19 wave prompting the Union government to tell the worst hit state on Tuesday to focus on strict containment strategies even as India recorded over 20,000 coronavirus cases for the sixth consecutive day.
The Centre, meanwhile, said the COVID-19 case trajectory is showing an "upward trend" after the viral infections continued to decline till February 2 with the peak of the epidemic curve being witnessed in mid-September last.
India recorded 24,492 new COVID-19 cases taking the infection tally past 1.14 crore, the Union Health ministry said.
The total cases rose to 1,14,09,831, while the death toll increased to 1,58,856, with 131 fresh fatalities, the ministry data updated at 8 am showed.
Registering a spike in cases for the sixth day in a row, the active caseload has increased to 2,23,432, which now comprises 1.96 per cent of the total infections, the ministry said. The recovery rate has further dropped to 96.65 per cent, it added.
A report by a central team after visiting Maharashtra highlighted that there is "very limited active" effort to track, test, isolate cases and quarantine contacts, and there is no adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour among people in rural and urban areas.
Maharashtra reported 15,051 new coronavirus cases on Monday, taking the state's caseload to 23,29,464, while 48 fatalities took the death toll to 52,909, the health department said in Mumbai.
Based on the report, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan shot off a letter to the Maharashtra government, stating "measures such as night curfews, weekend lockdowns etc. have very limited impact on containing/suppressing the transmission" and urged the state to focus on strict containment strategies, strengthening surveillance and augmenting testing.
In the letter to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, Bhushan said even though the health infrastructure is adequate as of now, the state should plan for a "worse-case scenario" with sufficient lead time.
"Maharashtra is in the beginning of a second wave of COVlD-19 pandemic," according to the central team report.
The central team which visited the western state from March 7-11 inferred in its report that the administrative mechanism should be re-instated to the level witnessed in August-September 2020 to contain/suppress COVID transmission.
"ln all the districts visited by the central team, the test positivity rate was high, ranging from 51 per cent in Mumbai to 30 per cent in Aurangabad, implying that there are lot many cases that are not being tested and there is high transmission in the community," the report underlined.
ln view of limited contact tracing, a large pool of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people among contacts are not tracked and tested, the report said, and stressed that testing must be considerably enhanced and protocol laid down by the Indian Council of Medical Reearch(ICMR) followed.
"The absence of rigorous tracing, testing and containment is leading to sustained community transmission.
"The high-risk contacts in workplace settings, social settings and family settings were not investigated and listed," the report highlighted.
Referring to the findings of the team, Secretary Bhushan said that containment strategy needs to be re-introduced, containment zones must be better defined based on contact listing, digital mapping of cases and contacts and should be much larger to include the area of influence of cases/ contacts.
"The buffer zones need to be delineated. The perimeter control needs to be strictly enforced. For each containment zone, the Rapid Response Teams should develop an operational plan," he added.
Bhushan also stressed on augmenting testing to bring the test positivity rate to less than 5 per cent and strengthening surveillance by active house to house search for active cases/contacts in containment zones (as per the containment plan).
"The Incident Command under the leadership of district collector and municipal commissioner should be actively re-instated with whole of government approach to contain/ suppress the transmission. This should be monitored at the highest level," he said.
Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply that the Centre is actively monitoring the resurgence of COVID-19 cases after "sustained decline" that was witnessed since mid-September 2020.
States have been advised to put in place among other things stringent containment measures on a mission mode in coordination with all stakeholders, upscale surveillance, contact tracing and testing, focus on minimizing mortality by ensuring timely referral and appropriate clinical management, and increase the pace of COVID-19 vaccination, he said.
In view of rising coronavirus cases in Madhya Pradesh, the state government has decided to impose night curfew in Bhopal and Indore municipal areas and also ordered closure of shops at 10 PM in eight other cities.
The restrictions would come into force from Wednesday, an official said in Bhopal.
The decision was taken by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after reviewing the COVID-19 situation at a meeting with senior officials, he said.
The night curfew will be in place in Indore and Bhopal cities from 10 PM to 6 AM, an order issued by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Dr Rajesh Rajora said..
Shops will be closed after 10 pm in Jabalpur, Gwalior, Ujjain, Ratlam, Chhindwara, Burhanpur, Betul and Khargone, the official said.
On Holi, no public programmes will be allowed, but the festival can be celebrated by individuals.
In Gujarat which is also witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, the state government decided to increase the night curfew timings in four major cities by two hours.
The curfew will now remain in force in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot from 10 pm to 6 am, an official statement said. The curfew timings earlier were from 12 am to 6 am.
The decision was taken at the core committee meeting of the coronavirus task-force headed by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge in Karnataka, the state government said it would launch a slew of advertisements to create awareness on following protocol and increase the vaccination drive to contain the spread.
Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar warned that stringent measures would be put in place if people continued to flout government guidelines on wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.