Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to hold a crucial meeting with the chief ministers of states and Union territories on Wednesday as alarm grows over the increase in Covid-19 cases in India, especially in the states of Maharashtra, which is at the stage of “the beginning of its second wave”, according to central officials who prodded the state to step up containment efforts.
According to officials, the PM is expected to raise the issue of states where the virus appears to be taking hold once again and is likely to stress the need to speed up the vaccination.
“A detailed directive was issued by the health ministry on measures that states such as Maharashtra should take in order to curb the transmission cycle. It includes intensifying disease surveillance by effective testing and tracing to identify cases. States that are reporting a surge also need to quickly expand their vaccination coverage and deal with vaccine hesitancy among the target group. The review is likely to focus on these details,” said one of the officials cited above. “And it is not just regarding states that are reporting a surge, others will also have to keep their guard up,” he added.
However, in at least eight states the infection trend show that they are in a new wave infection. Except for Kerala, Odisha and Bihar, almost all regions are showing an increase in their outbreak, according to the University of Michigan’s India vid-19 metrics tracker that shows all of the other regions with an R number of above 1.
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(As on 16 March, 2021, 08:00 AM)
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In the second week of February India saw a low of roughly 11,000 cases in a day and that there are now approximately 23,500 a day on average (over the last seven days). The trends threaten to quickly erode India’s advantage of starting its vaccination programme while the outbreak was largely under control.
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to the Maharashtra chief secretary after the central team’s visit last week. “Maharashtra is in the beginning of a second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. Efforts to track, test, isolate cases and quarantine contacts are limited there with no adherence to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour among people both in rural and urban areas,” Bhushan wrote in the letter.
Maharashtra’s R number is at present 1.34. The R number, or the effective reproduction number of the virus, is an epidemiological measure that indicates the number of people each case infects on average – if it is above 1, it means onward infections, and thus the outbreak, is continuing to grow. The outbreak in Maharashtra is particularly serious in the regions of Nagpur, Aurangabad, Amravati, Thane and Mumbai. Nagpur civil surgeon Dr Devendra Patulkar said several factors may have contributed to the rise. “After December 2020, the public had let their guard down. They did not follow precautionary measures like wearing masks and maintaining social distances. Soon, the chain of infection started which is now spreading across the district,” he said. “However, so far, we haven’t received any case of virus mutation in the district,” he added
Public carelessness was to blame, said Dr Sundar Kulkarni, civil surgeon from Aurangabad.