The Centre on Saturday directed states and Union Territories witnessing a surge in daily coronavirus cases to return to the “test, track and treat” strategy.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and NITI Aayog Member (Health) VK Paul held a meeting with officials from Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and and Chandigarh as infections rise.

The health ministry said that the situation in 63 districts across these states and Union Territories was worrisome because of an increase in positivity rate and decrease in testing and contact-tracing. “These [factors] together can pose high risk of transmission to the neighbouring States and UTs,” the government said.

The government asked the the states to follow the “test, track and treat” strategy as it had yielded positive results during the height of the pandemic in country. It also directed them to increase the share of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR tests in districts that largely relied on rapid antigen tests.

The states were also directed to focus on “surveillance and stringent containment” in places where cases were emerging in clusters, and trace a minimum of 20 contacts for each positive infection.

Also read: Coronavirus: India records over 18,000 new cases after 36 days, nearly 15 lakh vaccinated on Friday

The health ministry also asked the states and Union Territories to speed up vaccination of priority groups in districts reporting higher cases. “Make optimal use of the available vaccine doses and focus on critical districts,” the ministry said. “To collaborate with the private hospitals to open up vaccination time-table for a minimum of 15 days and maximum of 28 days at a time.”

The Centre also sent high-level multi-disciplinary health teams to Maharashtra and Punjab – two other states witnessing a sharp increase in coronavirus cases. The teams will help state officials with surveillance, control and containment measures.

“The will visit the hotspot areas in the states and ascertain reasons for the surge,” the government said. “They will also brief the Chief Secretary/Secretary on their observations and remedial measures to be undertaken by the state health authorities.”

India on Saturday reported 18,327 new coronavirus cases, pushing the country’s tally to 1,11,92,088. The country recorded over 18,000 cases after 36 days. India’s toll rose to 1,57,656 with 108 deaths.