Union Health Ministry on Tuesday alerted States and Union Territories about the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, and said that based on current scientific evidence, Omicron is at least three times more transmissible than the Delta variant.
The ministry further added that greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making and strict and prompt containment action is required at the local and district level. A letter written by Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan to health secretaries of states and Union Territories read, “This is regarding the measures that need to be taken in view of initial signs of surge in cases of COVID-19 as well as increased detection of the Variant of Concern (VoC), ‘Omicron’ in different parts of the country.”
“ln this context kindly recall this Ministry’s earlier guidance shared with States/UTs on
multiple occasions regarding the recommended strategies for containment and restrictions,
keeping the District as a unit. At the district level, there should be a constant review of emerging data regarding the population affected by COVID-19, geographical spread, hospital infrastructure and its utilization, manpower, notifying Containment Zones, enforcement of perimeter of containment zones etc. This evidence should be the basis for effective decision making at the district level itself. Such a strategy ensures that infection is contained at the local level itself before it spreads to other parts of the state,” the letter read.
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The main elements of the framework to be used by States and UTs to facilitate decision making at the District Level were given by the ministry. Firstly, the test positivity of 10 per cent or more in the last one week or bed occupancy of 40 per cent or more on oxygen supported or ICU beds. ln case any one of these parameters are met in any district, district-level containment measures and restrictions may be put in place forthwith. Equally important, the restrictions must be strictly enforced.
“Based on current scientific evidence, the VOC Omicron is at least three times more transmissible than the Delta VOC. Besides, the Delta VOC is still present in different parts of the country. Hence, even greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making and strict and prompt containment action is required at the local and district level. The decision making at the State/UTs and district level must be very prompt and focussed,” the letter said.
The ministry said that the template above provides a normative framework. However, based on the local situation and population characteristics such as density etc and keeping in mind the higher transmissibility of Omicron, States/UTs can take containment measures and restrictions even before these thresholds are reached.
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