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    Maharashtra at the beginning of a second COVID-19 wave, warns union health secretary

    Maharashtra at the beginning of a second COVID-19 wave, warns union health secretary

    Maharashtra at the beginning of a second COVID-19 wave, warns union health secretary
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Published)

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    A Central team had a brief meeting with the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (Home) and other senior officials of the state government on March 8

    Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhusan warned that Maharashtra was at the beginning of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, Bhushan, in a letter to the Maharashtra government, said that a report by the Central team that had visited the state from March 7-11 found that there was very limited active effort to track, test, isolate cases and quarantine the contacts.
    The team had a brief meeting with the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary (Home) and other senior officials of the state government on March 8, apart from a video conference with all the district collectors.
    The report stated that the test positivity rate was high — 30 percent in Aurangabad — implying that there are many cases that are not being tested and that there is high transmission in the community.
    There is no adherence to the COVID-appropriate behaviour in both rural and urban Maharashtra, added the top official.
    “Administrative mechanism should be re-instated to the level witnessed in August-September 2020. Surveillance needs to be strengthened by active house-to-house search for active cases/contacts in containment zones. Further, passive surveillance must be enhanced through health institutions, fever clinics (in buffer zones), involvement of private practitioners and so on,” said Bhusan, in his letter to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte.
    Though expressing satisfaction with the health infrastructure of the state, the Central government official has asked the state to plan for a worse-case scenario with sufficient lead time.
    He also expressed concern regarding the high case fatality in Vasant Rao Pawar Medical College, Nashik. “It needs to be investigated in detail with samples for whole Genome Sequencing.”
    Besides, the top official laid special emphasis on vaccine hesitancy among frontline workers, which he said, needs to be addressed as their services would be required if the trajectory follows the upward swing as is being witnessed now. “The state should also expedite vaccinating those with comorbidities and elderly persons.”
    Among the actions that need to be taken, he suggested tracing and tracking at-least 20 to 30 close contacts (including family, workplace and other casual contacts) promptly for every positive case. “The field staff engaged in contact tracing requires training/reorientation and developing skills on interpersonal communication. The contacts of a positive case should be tested strictly in accordance with the ICMR guidelines (5-10 days after exposure).”
    He further said the testing has to be augmented to bring the test positivity rate to less than 5 percent. “Whereas the mainstay of testing shall be RT-PCR, the state should also utilise rapid antigen test as per ICMR guidance, especially in containment zones and high-risk settings like super-spreader events, bus stops, railway stations, slums, densely populated areas etc.”
    The letter also suggested the Maharashtra government to reintroduce containment strategy, define containment zones in a better way on the basis of contact listing, and digital mapping of cases.
    “For each containment zone, the Rapid Response Teams should develop an operational plan. The practise of isolating 80-85 percent of active cases in home needs to be reviewed. While isolating cases at home, it should be ensured that the conditions stipulated in the guidelines of the Ministry of Health are followed. Daily monitoring of oxygen saturation of home-isolated cases through pulse oximeter should be ensured.”
    He also asked the state government to resume the practice of death audits. The Central team conducted field visits in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon and Aurangabad.
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