Maharashtra is in the beginning of a second wave of COVID-19, Union Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan warned the Maharashtra government.
Bhushan noted that the state government's limited effort to track and trace cases and contacts coupled with the general public's reluctance to adhere to COVID-19 appropriate behaviour has led to a rise in cases in the state.
In his letter to Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, Bhushan suggested measures which were in place to contain the pandemic in September 2020 should be re-instated.
Vaccine Hesitancy, COVID-19 Management Under The Spotlight
Noting that only 40% of non-healthcare frontline workers had been vaccinated, Bhushan urged the state to address the vaccine hesitancy among workers. He also asked the government to speed up the process of vaccinating the eligible population.
Bhushan criticised Maharashtra's contact tracing practice stating that even though the ratio is a high 1:20, the field staff have not been following the ICMR's guidelines.
"Though it appears high, a deep dive into the methodology of contact tracing revealed that the main concept of contact tracing was not clearly understood by the field level staff, who were mainly listing the immediate family and neighbourhood contacts, for the sake of listing. The high-risk contacts in workplace settings, social settings and family settings were not investigated and listed. The monitoring of the contacts was limited to conveying the message to the high-risk contacts for testing the very next day," Bhushan wrote.
The Central team noted that on-field staff were suffering from a sense of helplessness which could be down to reallocation of resources for vaccine administration and other departments. Bhushan recommended the state to appoint or hire staff on a contractual basis to help the on-field teams.
The Central team noted that the Test positivity Rate was high in many districts implying that there is a large pool of unidentified cases who are transmitting the virus.
Given that the contact tracing practice was not up to what is required, Bhushan noted that the testing protocol needs to be considerably enhanced.
"The absence of rigorous tracing, testing and containment is leading to sustained community transmission," Bhushan wrote.
With Maharashtra isolating 80-85% of cases at home, Bhushan asked the state to improve monitoring of such cases noting that checking up on oxygen saturation and other symptoms through calls were not adequate.
With the number of cases rising, Bhushan recommended re-introducing the containment strategy which had been put in place at the start of the pandemic.