It is now official. The Centre has said a second Covid-19 wave has begun in Maharashtra. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has said so in a strongly worded letter to State Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte: “The state is in the beginning of a second wave. Efforts to track, test, isolate cases and quarantine contacts are limited, with no adherence to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour among people, both in rural and urban areas,’’ said Bhushan.
Bhushan’s letter comes days after a Central team visited districts with high coronavirus cases, urging the state government to focus on containment strategies. It also comes on a day when the number of new cases touched 17,864, crossing the 17,000-mark for the first time since February 1, 2021. There were 1,38,813 active cases in the state as on Tuesday.
“Measures such as night curfews, weekend lockdowns have very limited impact on containing or suppressing the transmission. Hence the district administration should focus on strict and effective containment strategy,” said Bhushan.
The letter said that 8 out of 10 districts with corona cases were in Maharashtra. These districts include Pune, Nagpur, Thane, Mumbai, Amravati, Jalgaon, Nashik and Aurangabad. Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases, constituting 60 per cent of the nation’s daily caseload.
Referring to contact tracing, Bhushan said that the case-contact ratio was more than 1:20 in the state. “Though it appears high, a deep dive into the methodology of contact tracing revealed that the main concept of contact tracing was not clearly understood by the field level staff, who were mainly listing the immediate family and neighborhood contacts," he added. He has advised the state to enhance testing considerably, as per the Indian Council of Medical Research protocols.
“The Central team found that the district administration is not much worried about the evolving situation. We could sense a feeling that enough has been done already. This complacency may take its toll,” Bhushan said. He has asked the state government to bring down the state’s test positivity rate and step up contact-tracing and vaccinations.
“The testing has to be augmented to bring the test positivity rate to less than 5 per cent. Whereas the mainstay of testing shall be RT-PCR, the state should also utilise RAT kits as per ICMR guidance, especially in containment zones and high-risk settings like super-spreader events, bus stops, railway stations, slums, densely populated areas,’’ he noted.