Delhi needs to ramp up testing: Dr Harsh Vardhan

He suugests aggressive surveillance, contact tracing and stringent containment activities

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Delhi, Containment, Contact tracing, Dedicated COVID facility, COVID - 19, Aarogya Setu

As the number of cases and fatality rises in Delhi, and all districts of UT of Delhi are now affected by COVID-19, it needs to ramp up testing coupled with aggressive surveillance, contact tracing and stringent containment and perimeter control activities. This was stated by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, as he chaired a high-level meeting through video conferencing (VC) to review the preparedness for prevention and control of COVID-19.

Dr Harsh Vardhan pointed out that the rising cases, high positivity rates and low testing levels “in many districts are worrisome”. While the average testing/million population in Delhi was 2018, some districts such as north east (517 tests/million population) and South east (506 tests/million population) were far below. While the UT’s positivity rate of last week was 25.7%, several districts reported figures above 38%, he said.

“The high rate of infection in the healthcare workers was also serious issue. It indicates poor infection prevention control practices in health care settings and needs to be attended to on priority,” he pointed out.

He underscored the immediate need and importance of scaling up of testing with health infrastructure enhancements along with better clinical management of the COVID-19 cases for effective case management and reduction of fatality rate. He also pointed that bed availability was to be rapidly increased in view of current rapid rise of cases along with avoiding unnecessary delay in admission of cases.

“As a significant proportion are on home isolation, all efforts for timely response in terms of testing, triaging and shifting of patients to the required level of Dedicated COVID facility is important to avoid mortality,” he stated. The elderly and vulnerable population, such as those with underlying co-morbidities, need to be identified and protected, he said, adding that provisioning of institutional quarantine to vulnerable populations in large clusters where home isolation is not deemed effective, needs attention too.

It was advised that early detection of cases needs to be done by enhanced surveillance of ILI/ SARI cases. Fever Clinics and Flu corners in all healthcare settings needs to be established in all corners of Delhi along with focus on contact tracing and surveillance. Use of Aarogya Setu app data for contact tracing was to be promoted. Risk communication and IEC Activities need to be enhanced as per target audience especially to avoid stigmatization of patients and their family members. Also non-COVID essential health care services need to be resumed.

He said that while some issues such as the density of population in many containment zones did pose a serious challenge to the collective efforts of the administration, it was important to pool in resources and experiences for a convergent action, he advised. “This is a collective battle, and we are here to support Delhi in its efforts,” he stated.