The Union Health Ministry on Saturday informed 12 states that the Covid-19 second wave has impacted their 46 districts – including Bengaluru Urban – the maximum and the states may consider imposing heavy fines on those who don’t wear masks and violate preventive norms as 70% of cases could be curtailed by following Covid-appropriate behaviour.
At a high-level review meeting with top officials from these states as well as district collectors and municipal commissioners of 46 districts, the central officials advised enforcement of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour through penal measures like heavy fines which would send a strong exemplary message among the people.
As 70% of the cases can be controlled by adherence to appropriate behaviour, the states have been asked to ensure Holi, Shab-e-Barat and Easter festivities would remain a muted one with an emphasis on keeping the celebrations inside the confines of homes.
The review takes place on a day when the Union Health Ministry reported more than 62,000 new cases and 291 Covid deaths in the last 24 hours as the epidemic gallops in Maharashtra and picks up pace in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Gujarat among others.
This is the sharpest rise in weekly Covid-19 cases and fatalities since May 2020 (7.7% and 5.1% respectively).
An analysis by the health ministry shows that 46 districts have contributed 71% of the cases and 69% of the deaths this month. Of 36 districts in Maharashtra, 25 are most affected and they account for 60% of the cases reported in the country in the past week.
Sharing a five-point containment strategy, the ministry officials said that effective containment and contact tracing for at least 14 successive days in 46 districts was needed to break the chain of transmission and not fritter away the gains of last year. At least 30 contacts of each infected person need to be traced within the first 72 hours.
The states have also been strongly advised for a significant increase of testing in all districts in line with their positivity rate, with an increased share of RT PCR tests, to a ratio of more than 70% of the total. The Rapid Antigen Tests are to be mostly deployed as a screening tool in flushing out cluster cases from densely populated areas.
On vaccination, the advice was to optimally use all capacities in the public and private sectors and make full use of the available vaccine stocks without keeping a buffer stock anticipating shortage as the central depots at Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Karnal have the requisite buffer stocks.
The second wave, officials said, reflected a lax attitude in following the Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and the containment and management strategy at the ground level.
For instance, while 90% of people are aware of the need to wear face masks, only 44% actually wear them. There are studies to show one infected person can spread the virus to 406 other individuals over 30 days without restrictions, but the spread can be brought down to 15 individuals if the infected person cuts his/her physical exposure to the outside world by 50% and only 2.5 persons if the exposure is reduced by 75%.