Centre rushes teams to nine states to arrest COVID surge



New Delhi

The Centre on Wednesday  cautioned states and Union territories that any laxity in implementing stringent curbs, especially in view of new virus strain observed in certain countries, could “compound the situation”.

As new coronavirus cases crossed the 13,000 mark for the third time in six days on Wednesday, the Centre rushed multi-disciplinary teams to nine states and the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir most of whom are witnessing a surge to support them in effectively tackling the pandemic.

The nine states are Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. COVID-19 cases rose sharply in Maharashtra with the state reporting 8,807 new infections, taking its total count to 21,21,119, the state health department said.

The western state had reported 6,218 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.

“These teams will work closely with the states and UT administration and ascertain reasons for the recent surge in the number of COVID-19 cases,” the Union health ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the teams will also coordinate with health authorities of the states and Jammu  and Kashmir for requisite COVID control measures to break the chain of transmission.

“The Centre has reminded the states and UTs that any laxity in implementing stringent measures to curb the spread,

especially in view of new strain of virus observed in certain countries, could compound the situation,” the statement said.

Medical experts and scientists also cautioned that the spike in cases in some states is likely due to non-adherence of COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

“I would say the surge is most likely due to non-adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour,” said noted virologist Shahid Jameel.

Rakesh Mishra, director of  Hyderabad’s CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, also agreed that the current surge in certain states is less likely due to some new variant, and more likely due to people ignoring COVID protocols.

The Centre has also written to Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir which have been witnessing a rise in daily COVID cases, along with decreasing proportion of the RT-PCR tests and rise in positivity in some districts.

In the letter, the Union health secretary has exhorted them to focus on undertaking aggressive measures to break the chain of transmission and ensure that RT-PCR testing is amplified to flush out hitherto undetected cases from the population.

These states and UTs have been advised to increase testing in a focussed manner in the affected districts with the appropriate split of RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests and to also ensure that all symptomatic negatives of antigen tests are compulsorily tested via RT-PCR tests, the health ministry statement said.

As cases surged in some states, West Bengal made it mandatory for passengers travelling in  flights from Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Telangana to produce negative COVID-19 report.

The Delhi government is also likely to ask travellers from five states – Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh – to show negative COVID-19 test report before entering the national capital, officials said.

People travelling in flights, trains and buses from these states will have to produce negative test report before entering Delhi, they said.