The Centre on Thursday advised states slated to hold Assembly polls in the next few months to ramp up Covid vaccination exponentially to protect the vulnerable population given the steady rise in cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus in India.
Pockets with low vaccination coverage and those with low COVID-19 exposure may be more vulnerable to the new Omicron variant, it said and urged states to accord special attention to ramp up inoculation in these pockets.
According to a statement from the Union Health Ministry, states and Union territories have been advised to be vigilant and monitor case positivity, doubling rate and cluster of new cases and consider imposing curbs and restrictions at the local level ahead of Christmas and New Year.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, reviewing the public health preparedness of states for fighting COVID-19 and the Omicron variant along with the progress of vaccination virtually, advised states to not let their guard down and maintain their preparedness for fighting the pandemic.
He reiterated that local containment measures are to be put in place when either the test positivity increases beyond 10 per cent or occupancy of oxygenated beds increases beyond 40 per cent, the statement said.
“However, based on the local situation and population characteristics such as density, and keeping in mind the higher transmissibility of Omicron, states and UTs can undertake containment measures and impose restrictions even before these thresholds are reached,” Bhushan underlined.
Any restriction must be enforced for a minimum of 14 days, the states were advised.
As symptoms of infection caused by the Omicron variant closely mimic common cold with a higher rate of transmissibility and doubling time, a syndromic approach for Covid containment can be employed, the health secretary said.
About vaccinations, the states were advised to ensure 100 per cent coverage of left out first and second dose eligible beneficiaries in an accelerated manner and give special focus to those districts where the first and second dose coverage is less than the national average.
States going in for elections in the next few months need to exponentially ramp up vaccination, especially in the low coverage districts to protect the vulnerable population, Bhushan stressed in the meeting.
On containment strategies, states were advised to impose night curfews, ensure strict regulation of large gatherings and promptly notify ‘containment zones’, ‘buffer Zones’ if new clusters of Covid cases emerge.
They were asked to send all samples from clusters to INSACOG Labs for genome sequencing without delay.
The states were also asked to ensure door-to-door case search in the containment areas, test all SARI/ILI and vulnerable/co-morbid people and ensure the right proportion of RT-PCR: RAT (at least 60:40) tests in total tests being conducted daily, the statement said. This ratio can be ramped up to 70:30.
The Centre Asxked states to ensure contact tracing of all Covid positive persons and their timely testing, especially in clusters, and utilise the access to ‘AIR SUVIDHA’ portal to monitor international passengers, the statement said.
About clinical management, the states were informed that the existing National Clinical Management Protocol remains unchanged for Omicron.
As many states have decommissioned Covid facilities, they are required to keep an action plan ready for making these operational along with adequate availability of doctors and ambulance on call in case there is a rise in COVID cases, the Union health secretary highlighted in the meeting.
The states were advised to ensure advance engagement and information so that there is no misinformation or panic.