Centre may use NDMA to issue orders to states as Kerala, northeast states see Covid spike

1 month ago 33
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NEW DELHI: The Centre may consider using the National Disaster Management Act to issue directions to states where Covid positivity rates are high unless the situation changes for the better and central advisories to restrict movement are followed in areas currently recording worrying levels of infections.
The Centre is looking to persuade affected states, which include Kerala that has been contributing close to 50% of current Covid infections in the country and some of the northeast states, to implement advisories pertaining to micro containment to prevent a wider spread of infection in the community. The Centre has curtailed directions under the NDMA since May last year when the unlock process was largely left to the states.
But while the Centre is loathe to use the NDMA, there is a view that the situation cannot be allowed to drift after the high cost of the second wave in terms of lives and resources. "We cannot allow the situation to continue, there are wider ramifications to failing to bring down infections. A new variant can impact our vaccine programme," said an official.
Parts of the northeast in states like Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram have seen a rise in infections and the Centre is awaiting the latest assessment of national centre for disease control teams for an assessment of the health infrastructure and systems of detecting and reporting Covid 19.
The case of Kerala has been troubling with the state seeing waxing and waning of infections since late August when restrictions were relaxed for Onam. Now with the festival again approaching, the cost of intermingling is worrying central officials who also warn against "over reliance" on the national sero survey findings that exposure to the infection is low in the state. "The survey is essentially intended to provide a national picture, it's use for state level interpretation is limited," said a source.
Even as the Centre has advised Kerala to impose strict restrictions to curtail movement and intermingling of people, the state has indicated that its availability of health infrastructure and a low mortality rate so far means it can control the situation.
However, the Centre is concerned this may not only risk many lives in Kerala but also result in a wider spread, spurts of which are already evident in some of the neighboring states, a senior official said. “There are concerns because the R value (how many can one person infect) is more than 1.2, indicating that infection is expanding,” he said, adding a final call on containment strategy will be taken after evaluating the assessment report of the central team visiting Kerala.
“All the options including NDMA are technically open but our efforts are to have the state on board. The NDMA has provisions that if positivity is above 10%, then significant restrictions should be imposed. There are more than eight districts in Kerala with positivity rate above 10%,” the official said.
Moreover, a rapid surge in cases also increases the risk of mutation. “We have advised the state to implement effective and strict containment to ensure cases are contained in localised area but on ground they feel mitigation is the best strategy as they have low mortality and feel the rise in cases is because of Delta variant,” the official said.
“Such a large scale replication of infection in any state, district, is not good because then no one is safe. Kerala is not a island. They have a good health system, low mortality but if there is a transmission to other states then who will stop deaths there,” the official added.

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