Targeted vaccination tops Centre’s push in states showing a surge

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Covid-19, Covid-19 newsPeople wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus walk outside a government hospital in Jammu, Wednesday, Feb.24, 2021. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

THE CENTRE Saturday gave seven key pointers to eight states and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir that have reported a Covid surge, including an aggressive vaccination drive in districts reporting a higher number of cases and effective surveillance in tracking super-spreader events.

The guidelines were issued during a high-level meeting chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba and attended by the chief secretaries of Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Telangana and Jammu & Kashmir.

The guidelines are: monitor mutant strains and clustering of cases for early hotspot identification; undertake priority vaccination; increase proportion of RT- PCR tests in districts having high rapid antigen testing; focus on clinical management; implement strict surveillance and containment in districts with low testing; improve overall testing numbers; and, enforce Covid measures by levying heavy fines and challans.

During the meeting, which was also attended by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Niti Aayog member Dr V K Paul, a detailed presentation was made on districts with “concerning testing trends” and increase in number of cases.

“(The) Cabinet Secretary reiterated that states need to maintain a continued rigorous vigil in terms of containing the spread and not squander away the gains of the collective hard work of the last year…Need for effective testing, comprehensive tracking, prompt isolation of positive cases, and quick quarantine of close contacts were also strongly emphasised,” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

According to data compiled by the Ministry, 16,488 new Covid cases were registered in the last 24 hours, with 85.7 per cent of them from six states and UTs, including Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Gujarat.

Maharashtra has reported the sharpest rise in active cases in the last two weeks — from 34,449 on February 14 to 68,810 Saturday. The other states in this group across this period are: Punjab (2,335 to 4,222); Madhya Pradesh (1,829 to 2,518); Gujarat (1,763 to 2,136); and, Haryana (845 to 1,103).

Significantly, Kerala has now started reporting the maximum decline in the number of active cases in the last two weeks: from 63,847 on February 14 to 51,679 Saturday.

The Ministry also said that 113 Covid-linked deaths have been reported in the last 24 hours, with 82 per cent from the six states. “Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (48). Punjab follows with 15 daily deaths and Kerala reported 14 deaths in the last 24 hours,” the Ministry said.

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