Pandemic waning, but hotspots still active in 27 districts of 10 states
As many as 27 districts, including Kolkata, spread across 10 states continue to remain COVID-19 hotspots amidst overall declining trend of the pandemic in the country with the new Omicron variant of the virus appearing less virulent in India so far.
The fight against the pandemic is particularly critical in eight districts across three states that have been recording more than 10 per cent positivity rates in the past two weeks, according to a health ministry communiqué.
Of these eight districts, five – Hanhthial, Serchhip, Champhai, Lunglei and Lawngtlai – are in the tiny north-eastern state of Mizoram. Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and South District in Sikkim are the three other districts where COVID-19 positivity rates are alarmingly high.
Sikkim’s South District registered a positivity rate of a whopping 24.8 per cent in the past weeks. The district is closely followed by Mizoram’s Hnahthial at 22.37 per cent.
Apart from these eight, the health ministry has further put another 19 districts in seven states/ Union territories under scanner as the positivity rates in these districts have been hovering between 5 and 10 per cent in the past two weeks.
Of these districts, nine are in Kerala, five in Mizoram and one each in Arunachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Manipur, West Bengal and Nagaland.
The positivity rate in Kolkata in West Bengal, has been 5.38 per cent in the past weeks as against around 1.59 per cent in the state.
Health experts feel that Kolkata needs to be doubly cautious about its positivity rate as the city is now witnessing crowded campaigning for the December 19 municipal corporation elections. In most of these poll rallies and meetings, COVID protocols like social distancing and wearing masks are not followed properly.
To ensure that the ensuing civic body poll does not turn into a super spreader event, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation at the request of the state election commission has launched a special vaccination drive in all the 144 wards of the city since Sunday (December 12).
The purpose of the special COVID-19 vaccination camps, which will continue till December 17, is to inoculate unvaccinated voters. Any voters of the Kolkata corporation area can walk into the special camps to get inoculated, the state election commission said in a statement. It has asked the KMC and the district administration to make adequate publicity to make voters aware of the facility.
According to state health department sources, over 36.63 lakh adult citizens were administered both doses of COVID-19 vaccines until December 12 in Kolkata, which has a total population of 1.48 crore. The first dose of vaccine has been administered to about 49.10 lakh people.
Alerting about the COVID-19 situation in Kolkata, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan has directed the West Bengal government to ramp up testing and case search.
Bhushan in a letter addressed to chief secretaries of all the 10 states that still have districts with high COVID-19 positivity rates, has asked to go for strategic containment interventions by identifying areas with test positivity rate of 10 per cent or hospital bed occupancy rate of 60 per cent.
In these containment zones, there should be restrictions such as night curfews, curbs on intermingling of people, prohibition of congregations and curtailment of attendance in social gatherings and sporting and political events, the health secretary suggested.
Meanwhile, separate health ministry sources said the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has not spread in India as rapidly as it was feared. After 10 days since the detection of the first Omicron case in Karnataka on December 2, only 38 cases of the new variant have been confirmed in India as on December 12.