The Centre told all union territories (UTs) to ramp up testing for COVID-19 and plan their containment strategies for the next three weeks in advance because Phase 3 of vaccination would be critical in the fight against the viral disease.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a meeting of all high-level officials, top experts and ministers, decided to allow vaccination to all above the age of 18 from May 1. The new vaccination rule will help India vaccinate at a record pace, Modi said.
Dr VK Paul, member NITI Aayog (health), while speaking at a high-level meeting with chief secretaries and police chiefs of the UTs, pointed out that the next three weeks would be "critical" for taking measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
The UTs were advised to conduct surveys to promptly identify COVID-19 positive cases. The virtual meeting, chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, was held in the wake of an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in India. Dr Balram Bhargava, DG ICMR also participated in the meeting.
As per the official statement, the Union Home Secretary asked the officials to maintain constant vigilance against the grave situation in union territories. Bhalla said that there has been a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases across the country.
"From 20,000 cases reported on January 1, India's daily case count has increased more than 10 times," he said. In the past 11 days, daily new cases have almost doubled from 1.31 lakh (on April 9) to 2.73 lakh (on April 20), added Bhalla.
The Centre, in order to control the current situation, suggested that UTs should ramp up testing capacities, strengthen health infrastructure, earmark containment zones and ensure strict enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour.
It added that UTs should also increase the share of RT-PCR tests in COVID-19 testing while continuing with the Rapid Antigen Test for screening purpose in clusters.
Most UTs said they have already imposed restrictions on people's movement, including night curfew, to contain the spread of the virus.
Chandigarh said that it is conducting door-to-door counselling for increasing the COVID vaccination and that almost 90 per cent of patients are in home isolation.
Delhi, during the meeting, discussed the shortage of beds and the efforts to bridge the shortfall through the central government's infrastructure and support through the DRDO's recently operationalised hospital for COVID-19. The national capital also expressed gratitude for the Centre's "timely support" for helping enhance their hospital beds capacity.