TN govt directs districts to enhance Covid-19 vigil

Tamil Nadu govt directs districts to step up Covid-19 checks, stringently enforce safety norms

In a letter to district administrations, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan called for stepping up vaccination drives and field tests

Representative picture. Credit: DH Photo/SK Dinesh

In the wake of the WHO classifying Omicron a “variant of concern”, the Tamil Nadu government has asked district administrations to enhance Covid-19 surveillance, monitor and implement protocols for passengers travelling from at-risk countries, and intensify their vaccination drives. 

In a letter to district collectors and others, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said that given the Omicron variant's immune escape potential and possible transmissibility advantage compared to the Delta variant, the likelihood of potential introduction and subsequent transmission of the variant in Southeast Asia is high.

In a nine-page letter, district administrations were directed to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to “better understand” circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. 

He also said since S-gene target failure (SGTF) is indicated for Omicron, the SGTF can be used as the mark for the variant, which may lead to efficient detection of Omicron. 

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“Continue to accelerate the vaccination coverage, especially among priority populations initially targeted for Covid-19 vaccination, who remain unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated,” Radhakrishnan said in the letter. 

Tamil Nadu has, so far, administered nearly 70 million vaccine doses and is fast-tracking vaccinations by holding two special camps across the state every week. The state has also found that the death rate among the vaccinated population is markedly less compared to the unvaccinated. 

Radhakrishnan asked the district administration to ensure that Covid-19 appropriate behaviour like the use of masks and social distancing is monitored, and advised contact tracing of Covid-19 cases with an epidemiological link to the affected areas.  

“While it is too preliminary to assess the transmissibility and impact in case it is detected in our state, in the anticipation of Covid-19 caseload and associated pressure on the health system, we need to ensure mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services and necessary healthcare resources are in place to respond to potential surges,” he said.

Contending that genomic surveillance is of “crucial importance” for early detection, he said that details will provide information to guide response. “This should include not only regular testing of representative samples but also strengthening targeted sampling from persons coming from high-risk areas,” Radhakrishnan said.

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