Central teams to visit states with high COVID cases, low vaccination

A meeting with Union health secretary to discuss COVID-19 in UP and other poll-bound states has been scheduled for Monday

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The Centre will send teams to 10 states that are either reporting an increasing number of Omicron and COVID-19 cases or slow vaccination pace, the health ministry has said.

According to the order issued on Friday (December 24), these states are: Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Mizoram, Karnataka, Bihar, Jharkhand and Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Punjab and UP are due to hold elections in two months. The Allahabad High Court has already flagged the Omicron threat, and on Thursday asked the Election Commission and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to consider postponing polls by one or two months.

The note from Centre sending teams to states

Election Commission sources said a meeting with Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan to discuss COVID-19 in UP and other poll-bound states has been scheduled for Monday.

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The Centre’s teams will be deployed for five days, during which time they will work with state health authorities on improving testing and surveillance and enforcing COVID-appropriate behaviour. They will also check on vaccination rates in each state, as well as review existing hospital infrastructure.

Also on the teams’ checklist will be genome sequencing of samples to identify cases of the Omicron strain – which the World Health Organization has warned is significantly more transmissible than the Delta variant that triggered the second wave of infections in the country.

“State-level central teams will assess the situation, suggest remedial actions and submit a report every evening by 7 pm on the public health activities being undertaken,” the health ministry said.

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