On a day when India reported the biggest one-day fatalities due to the coronavirus, the government said the numbers are yet to stabilise and blamed those citizens who have let their guard down against the highly infectious COVID-19. India today reported 1,133 deaths in the biggest spike in fatalities in a day. The total cases have crossed 42.5 lakh, more than Brazil.
"Don't be negligent about precautions. Wear mask at all times and maintain a 6 feet distance. Don't host or attend events that can act as super-spreaders of infection. This is a common complaint from state governments that people are becoming reckless and don't maintain precautions anymore. Precautions are still the key to controlling the pandemic," said Dr VK Paul, member of the government's COVID-19 task force and the centre's think tank NITI Aayog.
The Health Ministry has sent its teams to worst-affected districts, and they have been holding meetings to identify and plug lapses.
"There are several states where when symptomatic people test negative in the antigen test when an RT-PCR test is supposed to be done on them. But we found that RT-PCR was not being done," Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.
"In containment zones, contact-tracing is supposed to be done. Our central teams found that contact-tracing was not being done efficiently. So those infectious people get missed. They have to be quarantined within 72 hours," Mr Bhushan said.
Meetings were recently held with district collectors and chief medical officers of 17 worst-affected districts across Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Sources said the centre found lapses by frontline staff, including ASHA workers, who also lack training about surveillance and contact-tracing.
The centre has issued two new manuals for surveillance teams on the ground. These address points about how to categorise high- and low-risk contacts and that on an average there should be 30 contacts per case. 80 per cent of the contacts should be traced and put under quarantine within 72 hours.
Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are currently contributing 49 per cent to India's total active cases and 52 per cent of total deaths.
In Maharashtra, the worst-hit districts are Pune, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Sangli, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Raigad, Jalgaon, Solapur, Satara and Palghar. In Andhra Pradesh, they are Prakasam and Chittoor. In Karnataka, they are Koppal, Mysuru, Davangere and Ballari.
Until India has a vaccine, everything relies on effective measures by the government and self-discipline from people, officials have said.
The phase 3 human trials for Oxford University's vaccine Astra Zeneca will begin next week across 17 sites in India with 1,600 volunteers. Currently, among India's two indigenous vaccines, the Bharat Biotech one is about to begin phase 2 trial while Zydus Cadilla's vaccine is already in phase 2.