Health Ministry Orders West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Assam to Step Up Efforts to Fight COVID-19

By: Nandika Chand | Last Updated July 18, 2020

The Health Ministry has directed West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Assam to renew efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as these states have recorded a spike in the number of positive cases.

Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health, in a letter to Principal Secretaries (Health) asked the states to ensure that at least 80 per cent of the new cases have their close contacts traced and quarantined within 72 hours of case confirmation. He emphasized that restrictions should focus on containment, surveillance and testing in containment and buffer zones.

The letter stated that containment and buffer zones should be suitably delineated based on the mapping of cases and contacts. It said NCC volunteers and others are available on COVID warriors’ portal which can be optimally utilised in containment and surveillance effort.

The Health Ministry urged states to achieve a minimum of 14 tests per one lakh (140 tests per million) per day while ensuring a positivity rate of less than 10 per cent.

The focus is on Bihar as the state is recording 400 to 500 cases daily; 80 per cent of the total active cases in the state were reported in the last seven days. Officials pointed out that Patna, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Nalanda, Begusarai and Munger have higher number of cases. Saharsa, Gaya, Paschim Champaran, Jamui, Arwal, Saran and Khagaria are marked as emerging hotspots.

In regards to West Bengal, Agarwal said 1,600 cases have been recorded daily with 93 per cent of the active cases reported in the last four days. He said attention needs to be drawn to Kolkata, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas, Jhargram, Purulia, Nadia, Midnapur East, and Hooghly. The state of Assam has also been recording up to 600 cases on a daily basis.

The Health Ministry recommended the monitoring of weekly case fatality. It said the states should conduct rapid audit of hospitals and create dashboards to monitor real time status of bed utilisation. The ministry also advised the states to have adequate human resources, revamp ambulance services and helplines for swift resolution of problems.

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