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'Test-track-treat and vaccination': Centre to states on lockdown easing

In a communication to all states and Union Territories (UTs), Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also said that vaccination against COVID-19, in the present scenario, is critical to break the chain of transmission

The easing of Covid-related lockdown norms has led to crowding in some markets and other places, the Centre said on Saturday, as it urged states to ensure the "extremely important" five-fold strategy of Covid-appropriate behaviour, test-track-treat and vaccination to prevent the spread of the disease.

In a communication to all states and Union Territories (UTs), Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also said that vaccination against COVID-19, in the present scenario, is critical to break the chain of transmission. Therefore, all state and UT governments should step up the pace of vaccination, to cover maximum number of people in an expeditious manner, he said.

The home secretary said that during the second Covid wave, a significant surge in cases was witnessed in several states and UTs, and many of them imposed restrictions in order to contain the spread of the infection. "With a decline in the number of active cases, many states and UTs have started relaxing restrictions. I would like to highlight that the decision to impose or ease restrictions has to be taken, based on the assessment of the situation at the ground level," he said.

Bhalla said while the opening up of activities, after decline in cases is essential, states and UTs must ensure that the whole process is "carefully calibrated". "While opening up, it would be extremely important to follow the five-fold strategy of Covid appropriate behaviour, test-track-treat and vaccination," he said.

The home secretary said regular monitoring of COVID-19 appropriate behaviour is required to prevent relapse. To reiterate, Covid appropriate behaviour includes mandatory use of masks, hand hygiene, social distancing and also proper ventilation of closed spaces, he said.

"However, easing of restrictions in some states, have led to resumption of crowding of people in markets etc., without adherence to the norms of Covid appropriate behaviour," he said. It is, therefore essential to ensure that complacency does not set in, and there is no let-up in adhering to Covid appropriate behaviour, while opening up activities, the home secretary said.

Bhalla said to contain the spread of the infection on a sustainable basis, it is necessary to continue the strategy of test-track-treat. It may especially be ensured that the testing rate does not come down, he said. Bhalla said as the situation is dynamic, a close watch needs to be kept on early signs of a surge in active cases or high positivity rates.

He said a system should be in place at the micro-level to ensure that whenever cases rise in a smaller place, it gets checked there itself, through local containment measures as per the existing guidelines issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

"I, therefore, urge you to issue directions to district and all other authorities concerned, to keep a close watch on the situation, while activities are opened in a cautious manner, and to scrupulously ensure that there is no complacency in adhering to Covid appropriate behaviour and in the test-track-treat-vaccinate strategy," Bhalla said in his communication to states and UTs.

Also read: COVID-19 update: India reports 60,753 fresh cases, lowest in 74 days