U.T. scrambles to cut spread in the new surge of COVID cases

 Health first: A staff nurse taking the throat swab of a person for COVID-19 testing in Puducherry.

Health first: A staff nurse taking the throat swab of a person for COVID-19 testing in Puducherry.

As COVID-19 cases exponentially increase in the third wave of the pandemic, health officials say the Union Territory is probably hitting peak levels of transmission and that a trend reversal could start as early as in a couple of weeks from now.

As 2,093 fresh cases took the active tally past the 10,000 mark, the administration scrambled to contain the spread and cut down transmission risks by suspending physical classes in schools and colleges, reverting to online education till January 31, and capping attendance in government offices to 50%.

Data shows that hospitalisation rate in the third wave continues to be minimal and that over 95% of the fresh infections are in home isolation. In the last 24 hours, the cases jumped from 907 to 2,093, and the active cases increased from 8,359 to 10,393. The number of hospital patients changed from 130 to 163, while home isolation numbers went from 8,229 to 10,230 during this period.

Inversely related

Meanwhile, the test positivity rate (TPR), which has been surging upwards in the past few days, touched a possibly all-time high of 57.44% on Monday. It has, however, dropped to 34% on Tuesday, when the sample pool was enlarged from 1,579 to 6,028. At present, there is an inverse relationship between the sample size and the TPR – the more the sample size, the lower the TPR should be, an official said.

The impact of the virus is much less severe this time with symptoms ranging from sore throat, cough and fever, which subsides in three to four days.

“Unlike in previous phases, the infection is non-severe and limited to the upper respiratory tract..., there is no lung involvement, as experienced with the Delta variant, and symptoms such as plummeting oxygen saturation levels, shortness of breath or hypoxia are extremely rare”, said G. Sriramulu, Health Director.

It is also notable that a substantial proportion of persons who test positive are asymptomatic, warranting a sharpening of testing strategy around contacts of positive cases.

Vaccination’s impact

Doctors say that the expansion of vaccination coverage may have contributed to fewer hospital admissions and complications from COVID-19.

The Union Territory has covered about 85% of its population with some form of vaccine protection. However, an estimated number of one lakh, remain unvaccinated.

In its revised guidelines, issued on January 17, for clinical management of adult COVID-19 patients, the Health Ministry advised home isolation care for mild disease (upper respiratory tract symptoms and/or fever without shortness of breath or hypoxia), ward admission for patients with respiratory rate ≥ 24/min, breathlessness or SpO2 90%to ≤93% on room air, and ICU treatment for anyone with respiratory rate >30/min, breathlessness and SpO2<90% on room air.

“The situation is quite the opposite of the one during the pandemic’s earlier phases, when the entire health workforce was battling high proportions of hospitalised cases, including ICU admissions, and rendering secondary-level guidance for home isolation patients. With such a large number of patients now in home isolation, we need to reallocate part of the resources from the vaccination drive to strengthen home isolation monitoring to tide over this phase,” a health official said.

The calls to round-the-clock war room by patients under home isolation is still in the low range. “We expect the call volumes to go up over the week”, said Duraisamy, who is attached to the Covid War Room.

The urging to the public from the administration, which has steadfastly avoided harsh lockdowns and instead opted for graded restrictions, is to fall back on the basics of masking, social distancing, avoiding crowding in public spaces and complying with vaccination schedules.

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Printable version | May 21, 2022 8:44:29 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/ut-scrambles-to-cut-spread-in-the-new-surge-of-covid-cases/article38288455.ece