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The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on Thursday asked the central government to prioritise testing and vaccination in rural areas as the covid-19 spread is now going to peri-urban and rural places.

Dr Sujeet K. Singh, Director NCDC while presenting the epidemiological findings and a granular analysis of the covid-19 trajectory in the States during a review meeting, cautioned against the spread of the infection to the rural areas, as the health infrastructure in the rural regions of the country is not adequately equipped to deal with the rising number of cases.

Singh said that states should send samples for genome sequencing to identify the role of variants in severity and transmission. While in the second wave of covid-19, the younger age group is being infected, Singh said that the apparent shift of covid-19 towards lower age groups is driven by the fact that higher age groups have been vaccinated in considerable proportion by now.

Harsh Vardhan union health minister who chaired the virtual review meeting highlighted that Maharashtra continuously struggling from covid-19 second wave since January 2021 although the decline of cases in Mumbai and Pune is significant. “The B.1.617 variant of coronavirus has contributed to the rise of cases in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi," said Harsh Vardhan advising all States to regularly send samples to INSACOG labs for tracking of emerging variants of covid-19. “The Strategy remains the same irrespective of the variants, he said.

At the beginning only few districts of Vidarbha region were a matter of concern in January. However, now 30 districts are affected including Kolhapur, Satara and Beed registering high transmission rate.

Similarly, Ajmer, Jodhpur and Bhilwara in Rajasthan, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Mallapuram, Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, Bengaluru (Urban), Mysuru, Bellary, Tumkur in Karnataka, Chennai, Coimbatore, Chengalpattu, Madurai, Thiruvallur in Tamil Nadu were also flagged as districts of concern. While Bengaluru contributes nearly half the active cases in Karnataka, in Madurai 1.48% and in Chennai 1.32% case fatality rate is higher than that of the State and the country.

At least 3,62,727 new covid-19 cases were registered in the last 24 hours. Ten States reported 72.42% of the new cases in last 24 hours. Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 46,781. Itis followed by Kerala with 43,529while Karnataka reported 39,998new cases.

Public health experts have said that with the virus impacting rural area, the cracks of India’s health systems are widening and exposing the lack of preparedness.

“This in way is causing additional pressure on urban health facilities. From some rural parts of the country, news is also coming about wrong diagnosis of Covid cases and often being treated for typhoid in initial days, which is adding to complications. Further, the oxygen and drug supply chains are weak in most parts of the country and with over 90% of the districts having positivity of over 10% is an area of concern," said Himanshu Sikka, lead—health at IPE Global, an international health development consultancy.

“Many states and development partners have intensified their efforts to address some of these issues and government will need to ascertain that rural infrastructure is well equipped to handle the third wave, which may hit rural parts even harder," he said.

In order to curb the spread of the covid-19 in rural India, the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj recently wrote to all the State Governments to take preventive measures. To combat covid-19, the Ministry in its letter has suggested States to sensitize and facilitate the Panchayats/Rural Local Bodies towards meeting the challenge and provide leadership. The move comes after there has been a major reverse migration of people following lockdown in metropolitan cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. The cases in rural areas have also increased after the Panchayat elections.

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