Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Tuesday issued specific guidelines for states and Union Territories in the backdrop of early signs of a spike in Covid-19 cases and increased detection of the Omicron variant across India. The recommendations relate to containment strategies and restrictions in districts with high positivity rates, including imposition of night curfew, regulation of large gatherings, lowering guests in weddings.
The Union Health Ministry has directed state and Union Territory governments to implement district-level containment measures and restrictions if a test positivity rate of 10% or more is reported in the past week or if a district reports 40% or higher occupancy on ICU or oxygen-supported beds.
The ministry has said states would be able to implement the containment measures even before the threshold is breached based on the local situation and population characteristics, including density, and keeping in mind the Omicron variant’s higher transmissibility.
Reasons for Centre’s directive
The Union Health Ministry has highlighted that the Omicron variant was three times more transmissible than the Delta variant based on current evidence. It has asked the states that district-level decision-making must be prompt and focussed.
Additionally, the Delta variant remains present in several parts of the country. As a result, even greater foresight, dynamic decision making, data analysis, and prompt and strict containment action is required at the district and local level, it said.
Guidelines on containment measures
The Centre has asked the states to impose night curfews, strictly regulate large gatherings, curtail numbers at weddings and funerals, restrict the personnel numbers in offices, industries, and public transport.
In case new clusters of positive cases emerge, states need to promptly notify ‘buffer zones’ and ‘containment zones’ and ensure strict perimeter control. The states must also promptly send all cluster samples to Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories for genome sequencing, the ministry said.
On testing and surveillance, the Centre has asked the districts to conduct door-to-door searches; test all severe acute respiratory infection/influenza-like illness (SARI/ILI) and vulnerable/co-morbid people; ensure right proportion of RT- PCR tests in daily total tests; and contact tracing of all positive cases.
The Union Health Ministry has also urged states and Union Territories to ensure stringent enforcement of home quarantine/isolation. This will be a critical activity in the next few days, especially to ensure that people in home isolation do not spread the virus in view of its higher transmissibility, the ministry said.
The ministry has also directed districts to ensure 100% coverage of all beneficiaries who have missed their first and second vaccination dose. Districts with first and second dose coverage lower than the national average will get special attention during these drives. Door-to-door vaccination campaigns will also need to be strengthened, the ministry said.