PM Modi, Amit Shah meet officials to review Covid-19 response

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The Covid-19 situation in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Thane, Ahmedabad and Indore, all hotspots of the viral pandemic, was in focus during an extended review meeting attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, health minister Harsh Vardhan, Niti Aayog member Vinod Paul,and key officials in charge of the various empowered groups managing various facets of India’s response to the pandemic.

Shah will meet with Kejriwal to discuss the situation in Delhi on Sunday.

On Saturday, Delhi added 2134 new cases, the second highest number of cases it has added in a 24-hour period (the highest was on Friday, 2,137) and Chennai, 1989, the highest the city has added in a day. Mumbai, Thane, Ahmedabad, and Indore are also hotspots.

”60-70% of the cases are confined to these cities and their containment strategies need to be reviewed,’’ said the member of an empowered group present at the meeting and who asked not to be identified.

A second official present in the meeting said on condition of anonymity that discussions at the meeting also focused on the states where these cities are located falling behind on testing and contact tracing, and not ensuring strict adherence to social distancing norms. It as decided that senior central ministers would reach out to each of the states to discuss this, the official added.

For instance, recent days (and weeks) have seen a spate of media reports about the crowds and lack of social distancing at Chennai’s Madhavaram fruit market, bringing back memories of the crowds at the city’s Koyambedu market responsible for a sharp spike.

The Prime Minister is to meet with chief ministers on June 16 and 17, with the second day reserved for meetings with the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and a few other states that are seeing a sharp rise in the number of cases. On Saturday, for instance, Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu alone accounted for 7550 of the 12,081 new cases recorded in the country.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s office said: “In view of the challenges being faced, particularly by the large cities, it was discussed to augment testing as well as the number of beds and services to effectively handle the peak surge of daily cases. Prime Minister took cognizance of the recommendations of the Empowered group and instructed Health ministry officials to undertake emergency planning in consultations with states/UTs.’’

The second official said that despite the spike in cases “nobody should be feeling helpless.”

“We have already increased testing from the 2,000 that we started out with to around 1.5 lakh tests daily and we will ramp it up further.’’

The ministry of health and the empowered groups on hospitals and availability of essential supplies has already submitted their projected figures of the rise of cases and the need for medical infrastructure till August. There isn;t a shortage of essential medical supplies, the second official added, but the government is worried about a number of reports about paucity of hospital beds in the worst affected cities.

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