Close to 90 percent of India is witnessing a high Covid positivity rate as 640 districts out of the 734 are above the national threshold level of 5 percent positivity rate, the centre said on Tuesday.
The skyrocketing active caseload during the deadly second wave of coronavirus has overwhelmed the hospitals and crematoriums. There is an acute shortage of medical oxygen and key drugs needed to treat critically ill Covid patients.
Last month the centre widened the vaccine net to include everyone over the age of 18. However, most states have struggled to vaccinate their people due to vaccine shortages.
Underlining the need to break the chain of transmission, officials have cautioned states about the spread of the virus to rural areas.
“New states like Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland are seeing a high positivity rate and we need to take corrective measures to break this chain of transmission,” Lav Agrawal, Health Ministry spokesperson, said.
The Indian Council Of Medical Research (ICMR) has revised norms for testing with a particular focus on rural India.
The focus, they say, should not be on RT-PCR tests but instead on Rapid Antigen Tests which will help in surveillance and aid in breaking the chain of command.
“There is no need to do a second RT-PCR test and we are now moving from a 70-30 ratio of RT-PCR to the reverse of more Rapid Antigen Tests,” said ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava.
Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, along with health officials, chaired a high-level meeting to review and discuss the Covid management and response strategy with states.
Mr Gauba highlighted the need for expanding facilities for tele-consultation through more helplines, active participation of volunteers, civil society organizations, and NGOs.
The states were urged to ramp up health infrastructure at the sub-center, primary health centre, and health and wellness centre levels. Steps to improve the human resource workforce for Covid management were also discussed at the meeting.
The states have been requested to prioritize three important areas: testing, containment, and infrastructure.
Under the Disaster Management Act, the states have been asked to identify districts of concern wherein case positivity is 10% or more in the last week and bed occupancy is more than 60 percent. A state-level Nodal officer will be stationed in these districts for 14 days.
The authorities have been asked to classify districts requiring intensive action. District collectors have been given the responsibility to undertake the daily status reviews.
In an earlier advisory, the government had asked the states to lock down areas where the test positivity rate is above 10 percent.
Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored the need to follow Covid-appropriate behavior and focus on micro-containment zones with lockdown as an absolute last resort.
Since then most states have taken to lockdown or restrictive measures to stem the spread of the virus.
The virus has infected 2.29 crore people in India, with 3.29 lakh fresh cases in the last 24 hours.
The World Health Organization on Monday labeled the Covid variant spreading in India as a “variant of concern”.