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COVID-19 | Centre urges States to step up testing facilities over Omicron

A health worker collects swab samples of a vendor for COVID-19 testing at a market in the wake of spike in coronavirus cases, in Jammu on November 28, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Cautioning that overall testing and the proportion of RT-PCR tests have declined in some States, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Sunday directed that “ample testing infrastructure need to be operationalised to tackle any surge due to Omicron, the mutated COVID virus”.

The Ministry has written to the State Governments stating that in the absence of sufficient testing, it is extremely difficult to determine the true level of infection spread.

“States must strengthen the testing infrastructure and strictly implement the testing guidelines,” said Mr. Bhushan.

Also Read: Omicron | Enhance virus surveillance, urges WHO

Variant of Concern

He said as a proactive step, the Central Government has already placed countries where this Variant of Concern (VoC) has been found in the category of “at risk” for additional follow up measures of international travellers visiting India.

The Ministry also said in view of the possible threat that this VoC can pose, it is imperative that intensive containment, active surveillance, increased coverage of vaccination and COVID appropriate behaviour are enforced in the field in a very proactive manner.

The Ministry said there is already a reporting mechanism for obtaining travel details of passengers and this should be reviewed and the protocol provided by Health Ministry should be strictly ensured including testing on disembarkation of international travellers coming from “at risk” countries.

“All positive samples for genome sequencing should be sent to INSACOG Labs in a prompt manner.”

Also read: Omicron variant | South African passengers need to quarantine upon arrival in Mumbai

The Ministry said in all “hotspots”, saturation testing and sending of positive samples quickly for genome sequencing to designated INSACOG labs must be ensured in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). States have also been asked to keep a close check on the emerging trend of cases and the positivity in an area and quickly delineate hotspots for effective containment.

Instructing that States should aim at achieving a positivity rate below 5% while focusing on increasing the number of tests and share of RT-PCR tests to aid in early identification, the Ministry said having adequate availability of health facilities is essential to ensure that there are no delays in providing care.

Geographical spread of pandemic

“Trained human resources, infrastructure, logistics and procurement should be planned and strengthened considering the geographical spread of the pandemic and there shall be no compromise in providing prompt quality treatment to the patients. States are requested to optimally utilise the financial support provided by the Central Government.”

The Ministry has also asked States to hold regular peer briefing to help promote COVID appropriate behaviour and vaccination.


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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 11:32:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/omicron-variant-centre-urges-states-to-step-up-testing-facilities/article37735008.ece

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