As many as 377 of India’s districts have been identified either as Covid-19 hotspots (red zones) or potential hotspots, as the total number of positive cases in the country jumped to 11,933, with 392 deaths. While 170 have been identified as hotspots, 207 were dubbed “non-hotspots” with a limited number of coronavirus cases. As many as 353 districts haven’t reported any such case and thus are in the green zone.
The Union health ministry has asked states to identify areas showing a high number of absolute cases or a higher rate of doubling of positive cases as hotspots and those with a limited number of cases as “non-hotspots”. This exercise of identification of hotspots has to be done on a weekly basis by states.
“As normative guidance, we presume that a district with less than 15 cases will be treated as a cluster and if an area has multiple clusters, it will be treated as an outbreak,” Lav Aggarwal, joint secretary, health ministry, told reporters at the daily press briefing on Covid-19.
Strict containment measures will be followed at the hotspots. States, where there are no confirmed cases, have also been asked to undertake effective surveillance for severe and acute respiratory illnesses and influenza-like illnesses, besides ensuring dedicated Covid hospitals.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all the states and Union Territories, the government has said containment operation will be deemed over when there is no case reported in 28 days from an area after the last case tests negative.
“Hotspots (red zones) will be assumed to be undertaking effective containment activities.” If no case is reported for the next 14 days, they will be considered orange zones and will be deemed successful in containment, the letter stated, adding, if no case is reported for 28 days, they will be green zones.
There are around 22 districts in Tamil Nadu which have been declared as hotspots. There are 14 such districts in Maharashtra, 11 in Andhra Pradesh, and 12 Rajasthan. Within the 170 red zones, there are 123 districts with large outbreaks and 47 with clusters.
The health ministry has issued detailed guidelines to states for containment in areas where there is an outbreak. Only essential services will be allowed in these areas and entry and exit points will be strictly defined.
Special teams, comprising health workers, municipal corporation staff, and volunteers, will conduct door-to-door surveys to check for Covid-19 symptoms, such as cold, fever and breathlessness. Contact tracing and health surveillance will be an important part of the containment strategy.
They will also conduct sample-based testing for those with influenza-like sickness and severe and acute respiratory illness. Such testing will also be extended into the buffer zone — which extends a few km beyond the epicentre.
“We have told states not to wait for cases to rise but act in advance. Those not in the red zone have to work on a similar strategy,” Aggarwal said.
Through the data gathered, the government will define focus areas for intervention.