Kirana shops potential spreaders, states told

Your regular grocery or vegetable seller could be a potential spreader of Covid-19, according to the Centre.

Expressing concerns that such vendors could turn out to be conduits for the contagious virus, the Union Health Ministry has advised states and UTs to take up testing of these people to ensure early detection of cases which can bring down the mortality rate.

As around 9pm on Saturday, India had reported 21.31 lakh cases, with 14.63 lakh recoveries and 43,254 deaths. The mortality rate stood at just above 2%.

In a letter to states and UTs, Secretary in the Health Ministry, Rajesh Bhushan said, "There can be potential hotspots for spread of infection like industrial clusters with the closed work environment, people coming from high prevalence areas, other high-density areas such as slums, prisons, old age homes etc."

The health official stressed the need to keep the mortality rate at below the 1% mark.

The letter added, "In addition, grocery shops, vegetable and other vendors etc can be potential spreaders of infection to a large number of people. Testing in such areas and of such people should be taken up proactively as per Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines," the health secretary said.

He also highlighted the need for operationalising ambulance transport system with oxygen facility and quick response mechanism. He underlined that the refusal rate of ambulances must be monitored at a daily basis and brought down to zero.

With the COVID-19 pandemic now spreading to newer areas in the country, Bhushan said, there are likely to be scattered cases, cluster of cases or large outbreaks in districts and that the primary aim is to control outbreaks, especially in new locations.

"The focus at the same time should be to save lives at all cost," he said.

The official said that early detection of cases through aggressive testing, prompt isolation or admission in a healthcare facility and ensuring proper clinical management are major components of mortality reduction.

"Early detection of cases is the most crucial element to ensure that the case fatality is reduced. It helps in terms of not only identifying the case before it may become critical but also supports in terms of checking the spread of infection," he said in the letter. At least 80% of the contacts must be identified and quarantined within 72 hours, he said.

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