New Delhi: The Union health ministry on Tuesday said the situation of Novel Coronavirus in India is going from “bad to worse” over the last few weeks and the whole nation is potentially at risk. “Trends show the virus is still very active… just when we think we can control it, it sparks back… We are facing an increasingly severe and intensive situation in some districts but the whole country is potentially at risk. The virus needs to be eliminated,” said Dr V.K. Paul, the chairman of the National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration.
He, however, denied that the mutated strains have a role to play in this surge. He also denied there is an Indian variant of the virus. “There is a concept of virus shift, drift and shift. There is no such thing as an Indian strain. It is not a cause to panic. Mutations are sporadic and not significant,” he said.
As per the Union health ministry, the presence of foreign mutant variants of Covid-19 in the country is low as out of the 11,064 genome samples sequenced only 807 cases of the UK variant, 47 of South African variant and one of the Brazilian variant have been detected so far.
On Tuesday 271 deaths and 56,211 cases were detected in the last 24 hours. With several states and UTs reporting a huge surge in Covid-19 cases, state health authorities are scrambling to reserve more beds for patients to prevent fatality.
“We have taken pride that fatality has been low. But the death rate is now at four times — at 271 from 73. The virus needs to be eliminated. We want to emphasize that without contact tracing, quarantining, isolation etc. we cannot contain the virus,” said Dr Paul. He added states have been told to enforce Covid-appropriate behaviour, including the use of masks and increased testing and tracking of patients. “Use the law, use fine as an option… people need to wear a mask,” he said.
Already the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued a circular saying passengers not adhering to Covid-19 safety protocols should be fined at airports. “Our fight against Covid-19 continues. Advisory issued to all airports to ensure compliance of Covid-19 protocol. People must wear face masks (covering nose and mouth) and maintain social distance. We are moving in the direction of punitive action by police against passengers who do not comply,” Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted.
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said states reporting higher cases are neither testing enough nor isolating infected persons in time. “The top 10 districts in India with active Covid-19 cases are Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Thane, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bengaluru Urban, Nanded, Delhi and Ahmednagar. Eight of the top 10 districts with active cases are in Maharashtra,” Mr Bhsuhan said. Maharashtra has 3.37 lakh active cases.
He added that Punjab too is reporting high cases and it is neither doing adequate number of tests, nor is it isolating infected people properly, and Karnataka too needs to improve testing and isolation. Schools and colleges have been shut till April 10 in Punjab and chief minister Amarinder Singh has ordered intensifying of vaccination drive.
Similarly, Delhi, taken as one district, is among the top 10 Covid-19 high-burden districts in India. The Centre has written to states and UTs asking them to focus on district-level action to curb the surge in Covid infection.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand has said that from April 1, travellers from Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab. Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan need to carry negative RT-PCR test report.