A time to ramp up defences and stay prepared

If the West is apprehensive of the approaching winter and flu season in view of a second wave of COVID-19, here, it is the case of the impending festival season that has authorities anxious about super-spreader events and rising cases.

As the number of COVID-19 cases has shown a declining trend in the recent weeks, the Health Secretary has written to district officials, cautioning them against complacency during this crucial phase. Pointing to a resurgence in cases in Europe, J. Radhakrishnan urged officials not to let their guard down as the battle, ostensibly, still rages on.

A lower number of cases has been registered after conducting around 80,000 RT-PCR tests a day in the State, with the daily count staying around 3,000. And as far as the capital is concerned, the numbers have consistently remained under the 1,000-mark. For a project that has been on mission mode for nearly seven months, chances that the guard in the fight against COVID-19 has been lowered, as a result of fatigue or a belief that the worst is over, are high. It is necessary that leaders of the campaign are aware of this possibility and ensure that there is no let-up in the efforts. Dr. Radhakrishnan’s note could not have come at a better time, public health experts say.

In his letter to District Collectors and health officials, the Health Secretary stressed the need for tracking the case fatality rate and positivity rate; linking fever camps based on need, hospital occupancy and the absolute number of fresh cases, and continuing with the high number of tests.

He also emphasised the need for people to continue following protocols, including wearing of masks, hand hygiene and distancing.

Former Corporation health officer P. Kuganantham said the attention paid to senior citizens needed to be ramped up because this was key to achieving a low fatality rate. “Data shows that 96%-97% deaths are among senior citizens and people with co-morbidities. We need to ensure that the elderly continue to follow protocols in order to be shielded from possible infection among any other member in the family,” he said.

Prabhdeep Kaur, Deputy Director, Indian Council of Medical Research – National Institute of Epidemiology, expressed concerns about a fall in mask compliance.

She stressed the need to continue adhering to protocols, especially mask wearing and maintenance of distancing. Crowd control, especially during the festival season, is very important, she added. Surveillance must be enhanced in markets and commercial areas to ensure that crowds do not gather and set off other clusters, she said.

The note to district officials also laid emphasis on monitoring market places to ensure masking as they can turn into super spreaders. The Health Secretary also suggested the setting up of information kiosks at places frequented by people during the festival season to prevent a spike in infections.

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