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Test more, don’t worry about high positive cases: PM Modi to CMs

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi impressed upon chief ministers the need to focus on more testing, especially RT-PCR checks, in the wake of rising Covid cases and not be worried about the high infection numbers that may result. He has also called for a “vaccination festival” on April 11-14 aimed at inoculating all those who are 45 and above.

It’s clear that a “challenging situation” is fast emerging in the country, Modi said at a virtual meeting of chief ministers. In states such as Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, cases have crossed the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last year. He said the growth in cases is taking place at a faster pace this time.

The Prime Minister emphasised the need for more testing, stating that this is most important at this juncture while vaccination will be a long-lasting process. With labs having come up even at the district level, it is easier to detect cases, he added.

“Testing and tracking play a vital role — do not take it lightly,” he told the chief ministers. “If the number of positive cases is high, it does not mean you are going in the wrong direction. The numbers are high as there is more testing — this is the way out. If any states have high numbers it should not worry.”

He said RT-PCR tests should constitute 70% of all Covid tests and the process should be followed thoroughly. Lab staff should even work in shifts if needed, he added.

Nobody in a containment zone should go untested. He said up to 30 people in contact with a person testing positive should be tested and teams should be formed for contact tracing, the PM said.

Testing, tracking, treating, Covid-appropriate behaviour and Covid management are important along with the participation of people in the fightback.

‘Next Few Weeks Crucial’

There have been many instances of people who are asymptomatic not isolating themselves and in the process infecting family members.

The next few weeks will be crucial in the fight against the pandemic, he said.

The Prime Minister called for a “vaccination festival” from April 11, Jyotiba Phule’s birth anniversary, to April 14, BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, during which states should aim for “zero wastage” of vaccines and cover all those 45 and above.

He assured chief ministers that India was in no way lacking on vaccinations in comparison with the most developed countries. The availability of vaccines has to be prioritised and a pan-India strategy has to be adopted, he said.

The Prime Minister’s remarks came against the backdrop of recent friction between the Centre and the states on the availability of vaccines.

Modi referred to the presentation made by health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and said it was clear that a “challenging situation” is fast emerging. This has been further aggravated by growing laxity on safety protocols and the relaxed attitude of people, a consequence of familiarity with the pandemic.

The Prime Minister said there was a need to spruce up the governance system dealing with the pandemic in all states.

While the lockdown of 2020 had been beneficial, the solution now lay in “micro-containment” zones and it was up to the states to take a call on the matter, the Prime Minister told the chief ministers. He said the effectiveness of night curfews being implemented in some areas should not be dismissed as they serve the purpose of spreading awareness about the seriousness of the pandemic.

Modi also underlined that there should be no politics on the issue.

“As far as doing or not doing politics is concerned, I have been seeing it from day one. I have been tolerating various kinds of statements. But I do not react as I believe that serving the people of Hindustan is our pious duty,” the Prime Minister said. “Those who want to do politics are doing it. I don’t have anything to say but all chief ministers should call people from all parties, and taking along everybody, we should come forward to fight this problem in our states. I am confident that within no time we will overcome this difficulty.”

He said tightening Covid surveillance in the next few weeks would be important. The country is in a stronger position to tackle the situation than it was last year due to better resources and learning from experience. There is need to work on a war footing, he added.

Other than chief ministers, state governors should also play an active role, the Prime Minister said. He said governors and chief ministers should hold all-party meetings to discuss the situation and seek suggestions. Celebrities, sportspersons, opinion makers and religious leaders should be involved in spreading awareness. Webinars should be organised among the urban and the rural populace.

All states should aim to keep mortality rates low and conduct a thorough analysis of each Covid death. This includes finding out at what stage the disease was detected, when the person was admitted to hospital, whether the patient was suffering from other diseases and if so which, and so on.

The Prime Minister called on the youth to assist in smooth implementation of the digital system put in place for fighting the Covid pandemic as well as vaccinations. He said the NCC and NSS should work toward this and engage with the poor and those who live in the slums. The youth should also adopt Covid-appropriate behavior, he said.

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