Centre lists prevention measures against more infectious Omicron variant
The Omicron variant is three times more transmissible than the Delta variant of coronavirus, and "war rooms" are needed to contain it, the Centre told states Tuesday. In an advisory, the Centre also listed a series of prevention and containment measures that included extensive testing, night curfews, and regulation of gatherings. The advisory was sent by Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.
- The advisory was sent in view of the threat posed by the Omicron variant in the country.
- The variant has already triggered a new wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and several other regions.
- Notably, India is also witnessing a gradual increase in Omicron variant cases.
- The country's current tally of Omicron cases stands at 220.
In its guideline, the Centre said preventive measures should be taken keeping in mind local conditions. It also laid down two "threshold limits"—test positivity of 10% or more in the last one week or 40% occupancy on oxygen supported or ICU beds—to initiate containment measures. States/union territories can take "containment measures, curbs even before thresholds are reached," the Centre added.
The advisory said that Omicron is three times more infectious than the Delta variant. It also expressed concern that Delta is still present in different parts of the country. Thus, "greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making, and strict & prompt containment action is required at the local and district level," it said. It also called for "prompt and focused" decisions by all authorities.
The guidelines also stressed the containment of infections at the local level to prevent outbreaks from getting out of hand. To achieve this, the Centre tells the states to constantly review district-level data of "population affected by COVID-19, geographical spread, hospital infrastructure and its utilization, manpower." It further asked the states to notify containment zones and enforce perimeter control.
On testing and surveillance, the Centre recommended "door-to-door case search, testing of all severe acute respiratory infections, and vulnerable and co-morbid people." It asked states to ensure the right proportion of RT-PCR tests in total tests conducted daily. Samples from cluster infections must immediately be sent to INSACOG labs for genome sequencing, it said. It also suggested contact tracing of all COVID-19-infected persons.
For clinical management, the Centre urged increasing the bed capacity and ambulance availability. "Mechanism for seamless shifting of patients, availability and operational readiness of oxygen equipment, a buffer stock of drugs" should be ensured, it added. This should be done by utilizing the Centre's Emergency COVID Response Package-II funds. Notably, the existing National Clinical Management Protocol remains unchanged for Omicron.
The guidelines also suggested ramping up the COVID-19 vaccination drive in the country. "Ensure 100% coverage of left-out first- and second-dose eligible beneficiaries in an accelerated manner," it said. Special focus should be given to those districts where the first- and second-dose coverage falls below the national average, it said. "The door-to-door vaccination campaign needs to be strengthened," the guidelines added.
Meanwhile, India has reported at least 220 Omicron cases across over a dozen states/UTs, the Union Health Ministry said. Maharashtra and Delhi have reported the highest number of cases of the new variant: 54 each. The other worst-affected regions include Telangana (20 Omicron cases), followed by Karnataka (19), Rajasthan (18), Kerala (15), and Gujarat (14).