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Centre asks U'Khand to follow 'stringent' Covid norms during Kumbh

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By NS Desk 21-Mar-2021

New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) Amid a surge in daily Covid cases across the country, the Centre has directed the Uttarakhand government to follow all the "stringent measures" to control the spread of the deadly virus during the Kumbh Mela.

In a letter to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan "strongly" highlighted the concerns raised by the high-level central team during its visit to Uttarakhand and about the "need for stringent measures to control the spread of Covid-19 during the ongoing Kumbh" congregation in the state.

A high-level central team led by NCDC Director visited Uttarakhand on March 16-17 to review the medical and public health measures undertaken by the state for the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.

The Health Secretary has also observed that currently more than 12 states in India have shown a surge in Covid-19 cases in the past few weeks, and the pilgrims who are expected to visit Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela could also be from these states.

The Centre's warning came in the wake of a spike in Covid cases in the country with 43,846 fresh infections getting reported in the last 24 hours, crossing more than 1.5 lakh cases in the last four days.

"It has been noted that there is the potential of an upsurge in cases in the local population after the auspicious Shahi Snan days at the the Kumbh Mela," the letter said.

The secretary also noted that as per the report of the central team, 10-20 pilgrims and 10-20 locals are testing positive every day. "This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly lead to an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh Mela," he said.

The state has been informed that the daily testing numbers reported in Haridwar (50,000 Rapid Antigen tests and 5,000 RT-PCR tests) are not enough to effectively offset the huge number of expected pilgrim footfalls. It has been advised that the share of RT-PCR tests being conducted at present needs to be significantly increased as per the ICMR guidelines to ensure that the pilgrims and local population are appropriately tested.

The state government is also advised to follow "scrupulously" the SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), and display signages to disseminate the main points of these SoPs.

The Centre also advised the state to increase awareness, especially among the local population, in case of symptoms suggestive of Covid-19; and set up a system for generating early warning signals in areas with susceptible population by monitoring the trend of cases through emergency operational centres.

The ministry has also advised the state to target significantly enhanced testing in potentially high transmission areas and continue periodic testing of frontline workers before and after the auspicious 'Snan' days at the Kumbh.

The state has been suggested to ensure operationalisation of adequate critical care treatment facilities.

"In case of surge in cases or super spreader events, promptly send the samples for genome sequencing in consultation with the NCDC," Bhushan said.

The Health Secretary has urged the Uttarakhand government to take a stock of the public health measures being undertaken by the state in consonance with the aforesaid recommendations of the Health Ministry.

--IANS

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