Prime Minister Narendra Modi (File image: Twitter/@BJP4India)
As the second wave of COVID-19 in India intensifies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 8 said a number of states have crossed the peak of the pandemic's first wave. The need is to combat the health crisis on "war footing", he said in a review meeting held virtually with the chief ministers of states and union territories.
The country is witnessing an unprecedented growth in new infections, Modi said, adding that the situation is a "big cause of worry" before the nation.
The laxity adopted by the public, along with a "casual approach" shown by the administration in some states is responsible for the high transmission rate of the virus, Modi suggested.
The country, however, does not require a blanket lockdown and is better poised to tackle the crisis as compared to the last year when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, he claimed.
"We didn't have testing labs and PPE kits earlier," Modi said. "Our earlier strategy was to go into complete lockdown to ramp up our health infrastructure. That strategy had helped up," he added.
But now, the strategy should be based on enhanced COVID-19 management, Modi told the chief ministers. "Our focus should be on micro containment zones," the prime minister stressed.
"We have to discuss testing more than vaccine," Modi said, adding that the the solution amidst the sharp surge in infections is to resort to "proactive testing". If the asymptomatic patients are tracked, they can be home isolated to curb the pace of transmission, he noted.
The states must increase the number of testing even if it leads to a surge in per-day detection of new cases, Modi underlined. "The target should be 70 percent RT-PCR testing," he reiterated, adding that not even one resident should be left out during the testing in containment zones.
The imposition of night curfews is a globally accepted strategy, the prime minister pointed out. Instead of night curfews, they can be referred to "corona curfew" to keep the citizens alert about coronavirus, Modi said. The timing of such curfews should begin from 9 pm or 10 pm and continue till 5 am or 6 am, he added.
Some of the states are also required to improve their infrastructure, Modi claimed. The focus should be on minimising the rate of mortality. "We have to monitor factors that lead to patients death. We need to review availability of ambulances and oxygen cylinders," he said.
On vaccines, the prime minister, in an apparent counter to the opposition's demand of relaxing the age limit, said India's approach is not starkly different from other countries in the world. The shots have to be prioritised for the vulnerable section of the population, he noted.
"Today, the problem is that we have forgotten about COVID19 testing and have moved to vaccination. We have to remember that we had won the fight against COVID19 without a vaccine. We have to emphasise on testing," he said.
Modi, however, added that the states must not adopt laxity in encouraging vaccination among the eligible beneficiaries. States must target 100 percent vaccination for the 45-plus age group, he stated.
A "vaccine utsav" should be observed from April 11 to April 14 to promote the usage of vaccine among the eligible section of the population, Modi told the chief ministers. In this campaign, the states must also ensure "zero wastage" of the vaccines, he said.