The Centre has written to five states reporting a surge in Covid-19 cases to monitor mutant strains and increase the proportion of RT-PCR tests. These five states are Kerala, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.
The Centre has directed these five states to ensure that all negative Rapid Antigen Test results are mandatorily followed by an RT-PCR test. It has asked them to enforce strict surveillance and stringent containment in districts and monitor mutant strains through testing and genome sequencing.
Calling the coronavirus situation in Maharashtra serious, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday held a webcast warning people to observe precautions or be ready for another lockdown starting from March 1. In a virtual address, he said that the second wave has not yet come but it is knocking on our door. We will get to know in the next two weeks to ascertain if the current upsurge in daily figures is a fresh wave of infections, he added.
Thackeray has announced the launch of a campaign called ‘Mi Jababdar (I am responsible), which aimed to reinforce the importance of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and using sanitisers in Maharashtra. All political, religious and social processions are also banned in the state from Monday. The administration has also urged private companies to stagger office timings to avoid crowding trains and offices.
The government is alarmed about Maharashtra which has a weekly positivity rate of 8.10% against a national average of 1.79%. In the districts like Akola, Yavatmal, Nashik, Mumbai Suburban, the absolute Covid-19 tests have come down. The district officials have been asked to give a day and then announce restrictions and lockdown, wherever such steps are needed, Thackeray said.
There is a steep rise in weekly positive Covid-19 cases in Kerala, ranging from 8.9% to 13.9%. Around 70% of the tests in the state are Rapid Antigen Tests. A sources close to the Centre has said that they are coordinating with the ICMR and moving some mobile RT-PCR labs to Kerala.
While in Punjab, the biggest concern is its coronavirus death figures and less monitoring of Covid-19 cases. The state is being instructed to increase testing, surveillance and contact tracing, and to admit patients to hospitals, said sources.
Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have received instructions to bring cases under control. They were erring on the side of caution in the case of the two states, they might see a surge anytime as they are showing early signs, an official said.