Spectre of second wave of COVID

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Centre asks five states to tighten surveillance after surge in COVID cases

New Delhi: India has recorded a steady rise in the COVID-19 active cases over the past few days with a surge in daily infections in five states, sparking fears of a second wave and prompting the Centre to direct these states to refocus on strict surveillance, containment and RT-PCR-testing.

Maharashtra, which reported the highest number of daily cases, on Sunday announced a state-wide ban on social, political and religious gatherings, besides imposing fresh local lockdowns or curbs in districts like Pune and Amravati.

Along with Maharashtra, the states of Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and  Punjab and the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir have also seen a surge in daily cases, according to the Union health ministry, which said 85.61 per cent of the new cases are from these five states and their weekly positivity rate is more than the national average of 1.79 percent.

According to the health ministry on Sunday, the active cases were pegged at 1,45,634, with more than 74 per cent of them in Kerala and Maharashtra.

The Union health ministry has also written to all states and UTs on the need to significantly enhance the pace of COVID vaccinations, while experts have cautioned against letting the guard down or factoring in “herd immunity” which could be “very difficult” to achieve due to the “variant strains”.

India has made considerable gains in controlling the pandemic with 22 states and UTs not reporting any COVID death in a span of 24 hours. However, daily COVID

-19 cases increased for the fourth consecutive day with 14,264 new cases on Sunday, taking the total tally to 1,09,91,651, while the death toll increased to 1,56,302 with 90 more fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

 “Of late, it is seen that there has been a spike in the daily cases in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also. Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir too are witnessing a surge in daily new cases,” the ministry said.

The ministry said Maharashtra continues to report the highest daily new cases at 6,281. It is followed by Kerala with 4,650 while Karnataka reported 490 new cases.

The five states which are now a cause of concern have been advised by the Centre to improve the overall testing numbers by focusing on increasing the proportion of RT-PCR tests.

It has asked them to refocus on strict and comprehensive surveillance as well as stringent containment in selected districts and conduct regular monitoring of the mutant strains through testing followed by genome sequencing, as well as monitoring of the emerging cluster of cases, the health ministry stated.

They have also been asked to pay attention to clinical management in districts reporting higher deaths.

Punjab is rapidly assuming critical dimension in respect of the spread of COVID infection, the health ministry highlighted, adding in the last four weeks, the weekly positivity rate in the state has increased from 1.4 per cent to 1.6 per cent, while the weekly cases in the last four weeks have seen a rise from 1300 to 1682.

 “The infection was expected to re-surge. Therefore, people should not be complacent till the last man in the country is cured of the pandemic,” All India Institute of Medical Science, Bhopal, director Dr Sarman Singh told PTI.

AIIMS Delhi director Randeep Guleria stressed on the importance of vaccination, which he said is essential in India’s fight against the coronavirus.

“Herd immunity is something that is going to be very, very difficult to achieve and it is something one should not really think of in practical terms… Because the variant strains and varying immunity with times can lead to a chance where people may have re-infection or get the infection again,” he said.