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Centre highlights need for stringent anti-COVID measures during Kumbh Mela in Haridwar
New Delhi, March 22, 2021
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has stressed the need for stringent measures to control the spread of COVID-19 during Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.
Bhushan, in a letter to the Chief Secretary, Uttarakhand highlighted the concerns raised by a high-level central team that visited the state to assess the situation in the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.
The team, led by the Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi visited Uttarakhand on March 16-17 to review the medical and public health preparedness measures undertaken by the state for the Mela.
Bhushan said, at present, more than 12 states showed a surge in COVID-19 cases during the past few weeks and pilgrims expected to visit Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela could also be from these states. The team noted the potential for an upsurge in cases among the local population after the Shahi Snan days during the Kumbh Mela.
The Secretary also noted that, as per the report of the Central Team, 10-20 pilgrims and 10-20 locals were being reported positive every day. This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly turn into an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh.
The State has been informed that the daily testing numbers reported in Haridwar (50,000 Rapid Antigen Tests and 5,000 RTPCR tests) were not enough to effectively offset a huge number of expected pilgrim footfall. The share of RTPCR tests being conducted at present needs to be significantly increased as per the ICMR guidelines to ensure that the pilgrims and local population were covered, the letter said.
The State Government has been advised to scrupulously follow the SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare including display of signages to disseminate the main points of these SoPs.
It should Increase awareness of self-reporting, especially among local population, in case of symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. A system should be set up for generating early warning signals in areas with susceptible population by monitoring the trend of acute respiratory infection (ARI) and influenza-like illness (ILI) cases through Emergency Operational Centres.
The state should target significantly enhanced testing in potential high transmission areas. It should continue periodic testing of frontline workers before and after auspicious Snan days of the Kumbh. It should ensure the operationalization of adequate critical care treatment facilities.
Effective risk communication, by using all forms of media platforms should be undertaken for strict adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour. In case of a surge in cases/super-spreader events, samples should be promptly sent for genome sequencing in consultation with NCDC.
The Union Health Secretary urged the Uttarakhand government to take stock of the public health measures being undertaken by the State in consonance with these recommendations of the Health Ministry.