The Political Edge Bureau
February 22nd, 2020
From monitoring mutant strains to increasing the proportion of RT-PCR tests, the Centre has written to the five states reporting a surge in cases to implement a multi-pronged strategy to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The states to whom the Centre has written are Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Jammu & Kashmir has also emerged as a cause for concern, and the authorities might be writing to the Union territory.
Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray held a webcast on Sunday telling people to observe precautions or be ready for another lockdown starting March 1. Referring to the rise in cases in the state, including Mumbai and Pune, he said, “The second wave has not yet come but it is knocking on our door, but we will get to know about it in the next two weeks.”
Sources said the government is alarmed about Maharashtra where 75% of the tests currently are RT-PCR but which has a weekly positivity rate of 8.10% against a national average of 1.79%. An official said the state was not doing enough contact tracing. “If you look at districts like Akola, Yavatmal, Nashik, Mumbai Suburban, the absolute Covid-19 tests have come down, though the positive thing is they are conducting RT-PCR tests. However, those who are testing positive are neither being isolated nor monitored.”
In his 30-minute webcast, Thackeray said, “Shall we impose lockdown again? I will wait for eight days to get an answer to it. Those who don’t want a lockdown will wear masks, use sanitisers and maintain social distancing. Those who want a lockdown will not follow this.”
Sources said Punjab was the source of biggest concern, for its death figures and “dismal surveillance” of Covid-19. “Punjab is No. 3 in deaths, despite around 300 cases daily. Kerala is reporting 6,000 cases, so we can understand the double digit deaths, and the same goes for Maharashtra, which is reporting 4,000 cases… In SAS Nagar alone, the weekly cases have more than doubled from 165 to 364. Punjab is doing nothing right. We have told them to increase testing, surveillance and contact tracing, and to admit patients to hospitals,” the official said.
Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have received instructions to bring cases under control, because there are signs of a surge anytime from now on.