The Centre held a high-level review meeting with authorities from all states with a special emphasis on 11 states and Union territories reporting a “very high rise” in daily cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid–19 and related deaths. The central government listed five tools that the states must follow to curb the spread of the viral disease.

The tools include vaccination, enhanced testing, strict containment, prompt contact tracing and enforcement of Covid appropriate behaviour, the government said in a statement.

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Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired the meeting and pointed out that the current Covid-19 case growth rate of 6.8% in March 2021 has surpassed the previous record of 5.5% (June 2020), according to the statement. “The country also reported 5.5% growth rate in daily COVID deaths in this period. While the country was reporting about 97,000 daily new COVID cases at the peak of the pandemic in September 2020, the country has now reached the critical figure 81,000 daily new cases of COVID,” it added.

Eleven states and UTs that were categorised as “states of grave concern” include Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Haryana. These have contributed 90% of Covid-19 cases and 90.5% of deaths as of March 31 in the last 14 days, the Centre said, adding, that they “crossed/or close to crossing their early reported peaks during last year.”

Highlighting the particularly worrying situation in Maharashtra, state authorities were advised to take up immediate and high effective measures to ensure containment of active cases and daily deaths. Maharashtra recorded a spike of over 43,000 Covid-19 cases on Thursday. This is the highest single-day spike since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government also told the states to increase testing continuously to ensure that positivity comes down to 5% or less than 5%. It advised them to focus on ensuring RT-PCR tests comprise 70% of total test, reduce waiting time of test results with regular review with testing labs, use Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) as screening test in densely populated areas and where fresh clusters are emerging and ensure that all symptomatic RAT negatives are mandatorily subjected to RT-PCR tests.

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