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Preventing fresh peak in pandemic curve

Fresh spike in COVID-19 cases in some states and Maharashtra in particular is an alarm bell for poll-bound Assam.

pandemic

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  23 Feb 2021 4:45 AM GMT

Fresh spike in COVID-19 cases in some states and Maharashtra in particular is an alarm bell for poll-bound Assam. Declaration of the campus of Don Bosco School in Guwahati a containment zone after one of the teachers was infected by the virus is a prompt move by the administration to prevent spread of the virus. Assam government's order discontinuing mandatory COVID-19 tests at the airports, railway stations and land routes with effect from March 1 will make travel smooth for the passengers. However, discontinuing the mandatory testing will make surveillance tougher for the Health department. Strict enforcement of COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing of facemask and maintaining of physical distance at the airports, railway stations and all public places will reduce the need of surveillance of each and every incoming passenger. Movement of majority of the people without facemasks and crowding at public places including political rallies, public events organized by the State government can be attributed to people being influenced by unscientific belief that the pandemic is over and there will be no spike in infected cases in the state. Such irresponsible behaviour of majority of the general public of not observing the safety protocols contradicts the claim by the Health and Family Welfare Department's in its order withdrawing the mandatory testing that there is widespread awareness among the general public across the state about the precautions to be taken. Till Sunday, state had 260 active cases and only nine cases were tested positive out of total 5923 tests on the day which substantiate the department's claim that there is a decreasing trend in terms of positivity rate and the number of cases detected daily. However, there can be no room for complacency as the pandemic curve may peak anytime if fresh cases of infection go undetected. Maharashtra has clamped a weeklong lockdown in Amaravati district till March 1 following spike in cases. Maharashtra government has also prohibited political, religious, and social gatherings in the state after the number of daily cases in the state jumped from 2500 to about 7000 in the past 15 days and recorded 35 deaths over 24 hours. A new cycle of infection in Assam will also be difficult to break without imposition of fresh travel restrictions which is not desirable as it disrupts normal life with cascading impact on economy. Travel restrictions in Assam also disrupts normal life in neighbouring states in the Northeast. Political activities in the state are on the rise as the upcoming Assembly elections in the State due to be announced by first week in March. The election rallies attracting huge crowd is quite natural and are unavoidable for political parties as well as electors. As political parties, ruling and opposition have formed booth level committees, they can sensitise the booth-level functionaries to encourage electors and their family members in their areas to go for voluntary testing if they develop coronavirus symptoms, isolate themselves and seek medical help, if required. The Health department maintaining the COVID-19 testing facilities at the designated hospitals should be backed by back-up arrangements of setting up additional facilities to ramp up testing to prevent a spike. Ever since the first case was detected on March 31, last year, the state recorded 2,17,392 positive cases, 1091 COVID deaths and 1347 deaths of COVID positive patients on account of other reasons. Vaccination of general public against COVID-19 is going to take time and there is no clear indication from the Central government when mass vaccination drive will be possible. So far 1.55 lakh health workers and other frontline workers have received their first dose of vaccine while 11,118 have received the second dose which should remind the people that mass vaccinations will be longdrawn in the state with 3.12 crore population, and they must not lower the guards against the virus till all the targeted populations are vaccinated. The electioneering in the state is going to pick up after the dates are announced by the Election Commission. Movement of leaders, workers of national political parties, government officials and employees, central paramilitary force personnel from different states including the states witnessing fresh spike in COVID cases for upcoming Assembly elections in Assam is set to increase. Physical surveillance by health workers to trace persons with Coronavirus symptoms among these visitors at the airports, railway states and at the Srirampur entrance gate will need to be continued to prevent the possibility of an infected person mixing with the crowd in election rallies or election-related activities and spreading infection. A review of the existing surveillance mechanism in the state following withdrawal of mandatory testing of passengers has become necessary for the department and the State government due to spike in other states. There is no need to press the panic button but staying alert will prevent fresh spike in Assam.

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