New Delhi, March 21:

In view of the rising number of Coronavirus infections in the country, the Centre on Sunday directed Uttarakhand to follow stringent measures to control the spread of COVID-19 during Kumbh Mela, during which pilgrims from across the country are expected to visit the state. The note was sent after a high-level team sent to the state raised concerns after reviewing medical care and public health arrangements for the Kumbh Mela.

Based on the findings of the team, Uttarakhand has been asked to increase the number of Covid testing as per the ICMR guidelines to ensure that the pilgrims and local population is appropriately tested, the Health Ministry said in a statement. Periodic testing of frontline workers before and after auspicious snan, effective risk communication, enhanced testing in potential high transmission areas are among other measures directed by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in his letter to the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary.

The Union Health Secretary has also observed that currently more than 12 states in India have shown a surge in Covid cases during past few weeks, and pilgrims expected to visit Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela could also be from these states.

“It has been noted that there is a potential of an upsurge in cases in the local population after the auspicious Shahi Snan days during the Kumbh Mela,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.

“The secretary also noted that as per the report of the central team, 10-20 pilgrims and 10-20 locals are being reported positive every day. This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly turning to an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh,” the ministry said.

The state has been informed that the daily testing numbers reported in Haridwar — 50,000 Rapid Antigen tests and 5,000 RTPCR tests — are not enough to effectively offset a huge number of expected pilgrim footfall. It has been advised that the share of RTPCR tests being conducted at present needs to be significantly increased as per the ICMR guidelines to ensure that the pilgrims and local population is appropriately tested, the note said.

This morning, India added 43,846 new coronavirus infections, setting another highest daily-high in nearly four months, amid a worrying surge in Covid cases that has prompted states like Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to consider return of school closures, restrictions on public gatherings and other virus-fighting measures, including lockdown in their worst-hit districts.

The daily rise in infections today was the highest recorded in 112 days, while the number of fatalities has risen to 1,59,755 with 197 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka and Gujarat are the five states that have recorded the highest single-day surge since yesterday, government data shows.

(Courtesy NDTV)