22 - 10 - 2020

COVID: Centre asks states to test grocery shop workers, vendors

New Delhi, July 08,2020: Expressing concern that grocery shops, vegetable and other vendors can be potential spreaders of coronavirus infection to a large number of people, the Union Health Ministry has asked states and UTs to take up testing of such people to ensure early detection of cases which can lead to reduction in mortality rate.

In a letter to states and UTs, Health secretary, Rajesh Bhushan, also stressed on the need for operationalising ambulance transport system with oxygen facility and quick response mechanism. He underlined that the refusal rate of ambulances must be monitored at a daily basis and brought down to zero.

With the COVID-19 pandemic now spreading to newer areas in the country, Bhushan said there are likely to be scattered cases, cluster of cases or large outbreaks in districts and that the primary aim is to control outbreaks, especially in new locations. “The focus at the same time should be to save lives at all cost,” he said. He stressed on enhanced surveillance for influenza like illness (ILI)/severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) as their symptoms are mostly the same as COVID. Once a positive case is identified, a prompt contact-tracing should be undertaken and at least 80 per cent of the contacts must be identified and quarantined within 72 hours, he said.

He also asked states and UTs to undertake weekly death audits to assess the determinants of death such as age differentials, comorbidities, late reporting to hospital and clinical protocols that were followed.

He further said that a regular house-to-house search must be done periodically to identify those who are at high-risk like the elderly, people with comorbidities and pregnant women etc.

Alongside this exercise, containment and buffer zones should be set up and the perimeter of the containment zone must be properly secured. Buffer zone should also be identified properly so that any diffusion of infection outside the containment zone is monitored, he pointed out. Availability of COVID beds in all healthcare facilities (government and private) must be proactively put in the public domain, he said, adding that responsible administrative officers should coordinate transparent allocation of beds and timely admission.