COVID-19 update: 70 districts recorded 150% spike in 15 days, says Centre; Modi warns of nationwide outbreak
Noting that the high positivity rate is a matter of concern, the health ministry said the tests numbers are not increasing at the same rate as the positivity rate is increasing
A total of 70 districts in 16 states have registered more than 150 percent increase in active COVID-19 cases from 1-15 March, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday, the day when India also recorded its highest spike in a day in this year.
The country recorded 28,903 cases in 24 hours, data released by the health ministry at its 8 am update on 17 March, showed, making it the worst recorded spike since 13 December, 2021.
Registering an increase for the seventh day in a row, the total active caseload rose to 2,34,406, which now comprises 2.05 percent of the total infections, while the recovery rate has further dropped to 96.56 percent, the health ministry data stated.
Addressing a press briefing, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said most of India's worst-affected districts are in the west and northern India.
"From March 1-15, about 70 districts in 16 states have registered over 150 percent increase in active cases while 55 districts in 17 states have registered 100-150 percent rise in cases," he said.
Meanwhile, the prime minister also took cognisance of the spiralling situation as he spoke to chief ministers of all states and warned that quick and decisive action was the only way to avoid a nationwide outbreak.
He also flagged the issue of vaccine wastage, because of improper planning of distribution. The prime minister urged states to open more vaccination centres to minimise this issue.
On Wednesday evening, Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in the country reported 23,179 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday. These numbers, along with those reported in other states across India, will reflect in daily cases in the Union health ministry's update at 8 am on Thursday.
70 districts record 150% spike in cases
The 70 districts, which registered over 150 percent increase, include Punjab's Rupnagar, which recorded a 256 percent rise in cases, Haryana's Yamunanagar (300 percent rise), Karnal (245 percent rise), Faridabad (225 percent rise).
Panchkula (215 percent rise), Himachal Pradesh's Sirmaur (367 percent rise), Solan (267 percent rise), Una (220 percent rise), Maharashtra's Nanded (385 percent rise), Nandurbar (224 percent rise), Beed (219 percent rise) and Maharashtra's Ratlam (500 percent rise), Gwalior (360 percent rise), Khargone (250.0 percent rise) and Ujjain (214 percent rise).
"In these states, we have asked to step up vaccinations and ensure all eligible beneficiaries get vaccinated," Bhushan said.
Elaborating on the rise in cases in states, he said, "If we look at Maharashtra, 60 percent of all active cases are concentrated in Maharashtra and 45 percent of new deaths are concentrated in Maharashtra."
"On 1 March, an average of 7,741 new cases were being reported. By 15 March, the number increased to an average of 13,527. The positivity rate on 1 March used to be 11 per cent, which rose to 16 percent by 15 March," he said.
Noting that the high positivity rate is a matter of concern, Bhushan said the tests numbers are not increasing at the same rate as the positivity rate is increasing.
"So, our advice to the states, especially Maharashtra, is that there is a need to increase the testing rate, especially the RT-PCR rate," he said.
In Punjab on 1 March, an average of 531 new cases were being reported. By 15 March, the number increased to an average of 1,338. The positivity rate has doubled and RT-PCR share is 89 percent, Bhushan said.
In Chandigarh on 1 March, an average of 49 new cases were being reported. By 15 March, the number increased to an average of 111. The positivity rate has increased from 3.5 percent to 7.5 percent and RT-PCR share is 40 percent.
"We would want a distinct increasing trend of tests in which RT-PCR share is substantially higher than the current 40 percent share," he said.
The ministry official also added that the lowest point of new COVID-19 cases was 9 February.
"Today, there is a nearly 43 percent week-on-week increase in new COVID-19 cases and a nearly 37 percent week on week increase in new deaths," Bhushan said.
Modi takes stock of situation, warns of nationwide outbreak
Expressing concern over the rise in COVID-19 cases in parts of the country, Modi warned chief ministers during a video interaction that a "nationwide outbreak" may emerge again, and asked them to seriously follow the "Test, Track and Treat" approach.
The prime minister also made a vigorous push for use of the RT-PCR method so that it accounts for more than 70 percent of the overall testing.
"If we do not stop this emerging 'second peak' of coronavirus immediately, then a condition for a nationwide outbreak may emerge," he said in his first interaction with chief ministers after India began the vaccination drive on 16 January
Noting that the seriousness of the local administration about the use of masks is going down, he called for immediate addressing of the governance problems at the regional level.
He warned that the confidence which came from our achievements in the battle against coronavirus should not turn into negligence.
Noting the need for the provision of micro containment zones, he said everyone should be serious about 'Test, Track and Treat' as we have been doing for the last one year.
One of the reasons behind India's "successful" fight against the pandemic is that villages largely remained unaffected by the diseases, and if it now spreads across smaller towns then the rural areas too will be affected, he said.
Many of the most COVID-affected countries have suffered from many waves, he said, and noted that some states in India have also been seeing a sudden rise in the cases after a phase of decline.
At the meeting, a top official said assured the chief ministers that there was "no signal of concern" over the use of the Covishield vaccine in the country. This came amid several countries banning the Astrazeneca vaccine, which is manufactured in India as Covishiled.
Centre says COVID vaccine wastage in India at 6.5 percent
The average COVID-19 vaccine wastage in India is at 6.5 percent with Telangana and Andhra Pradesh being on the top with 17.6 and 11.6 percent wastage, respectively, the Centre said on Wednesday as it called for optimal utilisation of the doses. Meanwhile, the cumulative doses of vaccine administered so far crossed 3.64 crore.
A total of 3,64,67,744 vaccine doses have been administered till now in the country, which includes 1,48,60,930 beneficiaries aged 45-60 years with specific comorbidities and senior citizens who have been given the first dose.
Bhushan said COVID-19 vaccine wastage in five states — Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir — is higher than the national average of 6.5 percent.
"The message we have shared with states is that vaccines are invaluable commodities. They are public health goods and therefore vaccines have to be optimally utilised.
"Vaccine wastage has to be drastically reduced. Any reduction in wastage means that you end up inoculating more people and therefore the chances of disrupting the chain of infection grow that much more," he said.
On an average 13,12,215 vaccine doses are being administered daily with Rajasthan providing the most jabs on an average, Bhushan said.
With inputs from PTI
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