New Delhi: The pandemic is spreading faster than it did last year and the next four weeks will be very critical, a senior official of the Narendra Modi administration said Tuesday.
During a briefing on the situation, Niti Aayog Member (Health) Dr V.K. Paul, however, also said the country’s overall Covid-19 status and rate of vaccination were commendable. “If you look in terms of population, deaths, we are still doing well and the pandemic is in control,” Dr Paul said.
“Administering 45 lakh vaccine doses in 24 hours is a reason for celebration. But the pandemic is spreading faster than last time. In some states it’s worse than others but the upswing is happening all across the country. The next four weeks are very critical.”
Speaking at the briefing, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan argued against vaccination for all, citing the age-wise vaccination plans of other countries, while Paul appealed to people to not take things for granted and continue to practise Covid-appropriate behaviour.
However, when asked about the possibility of a superspreader event happening in a crowded Kumbh Mela at Uttarakhand, both he and Bhushan were dismissive.
“The duration of the Kumbh has already been curtailed from three and a half months to one month and we have also issued SOPs. Central teams went there too,” Bhushan said.
“Keeping the dignity of the Kumbh Mela in mind, we hope that the congregation is happening as per the SOPs,” Dr Paul said.
At the briefing, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Balram Bhargava, said about 1 per cent of the cases in the country were of reinfection, defined as one positive test followed by one negative and then another positive within 102 days.
Within minutes of the briefing, Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan held a meeting with 11 states where the Covid-19 situation has been a cause for concern.
In another Covid-related development, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare has written to secretaries of all departments that the central government will start a major campaign from Wednesday to ensure appropriate Covid-19 behaviour, in line with directions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his last review meeting. It will be a “low cost people’s campaign (Jan Andolan)”, the letter states.
PM Modi is set to meet chief ministers Thursday.
According to central government data, presented at the briefing, seven of the top 10 worst-affected districts, in terms of cases, are in Maharashtra.
They include Pune (81,378 cases), Mumbai (73,281), Thane (57,635), Nagpur (55,926), Nashik (34,540), Aurangabad (16,818) and Ahmednagar (15,716). The others on the list are Bengaluru Urban (30,782), Delhi (14,579) and Durg in Chhattisgarh (12,589). Though Delhi comprises 11 administrative districts, for the purpose of Covid management, it is being treated as a single unit.
The central government has also constituted 50 high-level multi-disciplinary public health teams and deployed them at districts reporting a surge in cases and mortality rates in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab.
A total of 30 districts in Maharashtra, 11 districts of Chhattisgarh and nine districts of Punjab will be covered by these teams that will assist the state’s health department and local authorities in Covid-19 surveillance, control and containment measures.
The Modi government has also decided to launch a Jan Andolan, with the focus on a “five-fold” strategy, to deal with the crisis.
“As you are aware the number of cases of Covid-19 in the country is witnessing an alarming upward trend. The honourable Prime Minister convened a high-level meeting on 4 April 2021 to review the emerging situation following which it has been decided to focus on the fivefold strategy to deal with emerging crisis — testing, tracing, treatment, Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination,” reads Khare’s letter to his counterparts in other ministries.
“It is therefore imperative that all stakeholders with the Central and state government to take forward the communication strategy with renewed emphasis on Dawai Bhi Kadhai Bhi…”
Various ministries have been tasked with different responsibilities. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), for example, has been asked to get all eligible government employees vaccinated. The department has already issued an order.
Railways and civil aviation will impose fines for violations of Covid-appropriate behaviour and also print messages on tickets to increase public awareness.
The home ministry is expected to utilise institutions such as police stations, police lines and fire stations while the housing ministry has been tasked with ensuring banners and messages at toll gates, milk booths and entry gates of residential complexes.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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