Tamil Nadu

Enhanced surveillance is State’s priority, says Health Secretary

The Health Secretary highlighted the need for tracking travellers returning from ‘at risk’ countries.  

In the wake of the new variant of the novel coronavirus, Omicron, enhancement of surveillance and sequencing efforts, for better understanding of circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, is among the State Government’s priorities, Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said.

At the same time, the Health Department will focus on extending vaccination coverage, especially among priority populations initially targetted for inoculation, who remain unvaccinated or are not yet fully vaccinated.

The use of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene and improving ventilation of indoor spaces remain key to reducing the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and even Omicron, he said. A higher level of adherence may be required to control transmission, with a more transmissible variant, he said in a letter to all Collectors, the Greater Chennai Corporation, the Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and airport directors.

He highlighted the need to tighten COVID-19 disease control measures, including the tracking of travellers returning or transiting from ‘at risk’ countries. For enhanced surveillance, he said they should monitor and implement the guidelines for travellers from abroad and those from ‘at risk’ countries.

He said if there were reports of rapidly spreading outbreaks in healthcare facilities or communities in the future, such events must immediately raise concern that they could be due to a variant that spreads more easily. Contact tracing of COVID-19 cases with an epidemiological link to the affected areas is strongly advised, he said.

As part of preparedness activities, in anticipation of COVID-19 caseload and associated pressure on the health system, districts have been advised to ensure that mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services. Necessary resources should be in place to respond to potential surges. Medical infrastructure that was upgraded in anticipation of the next surge should be sustained, he said.

“Ensure that an early warning system, composed of a set of indicators such as rapid growth, case incidence and test positivity proportion, is in place,” Mr. Radhakrishnan said. Testing kits in government laboratories have the capacity to identify S-gene dropout. As S-gene target failure is indicated for Omicron, it can be used as a marker for the variant, he said.

In case another major surge of cases, driven by Omicron, the consequences will be tough, and therefore, all measures should be taken to prevent its entry into the State, the Health Secretary said.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 11:16:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/enhanced-surveillance-is-states-priority-says-health-secretary/article37743799.ece

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