The Centre has warned Uttarakhand of a potential upsurge in cases in the wake of the upcoming Kumbh Mela in Haridwar city, the Union health ministry said in a release on Sunday.
In a letter to Uttarakhand chief secretary, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that a high-level team, headed by the director of National Centre for Disease Control, has raised concerns after reviewing health preparedness measures undertaken by the state. The team visited Uttarakhand on March 16 and 17, the health ministry said.
The Kumbh Mela, which will be held from April 1 to April 30, is expected to witness a footfall of 10 lakh people a day. It is likely to climb to 50 lakh on three days of “shahi snaan” or royal bath, on April 12, April 14 and April 27.
Bhushan, in his letter, noted that more than 12 states have shown a rise in coronavirus cases in the past few weeks and that pilgrims from these parts of the country are expected to visit Haridwar during the Hindu festival.
He mentioned the central team’s observation that 10 to 20 pilgrims and 10 to 20 locals were testing positive on a daily basis in Haridwar. “This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly turning to an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh,” the health ministry said.
The Centre said Uttarakhand’s daily testing numbers of 50,000 Rapid Antigen Tests and 5,000 Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction tests in Haridwar were not enough to tackle the pilgrim footfall.
“It has been advised that the share of RT-PCR tests being conducted at present needs to be significantly increased as per the ICMR [Indian Council of Medical Research] guidelines to ensure that the pilgrims and local population is appropriately tested,” the health ministry release said.
In a list of guidelines to the state, Centre has directed Uttarakhand administration to follow Standard Operating Procedures, make people aware about self-reporting of symptoms, target high-transmission areas and conduct periodic testing of frontline workers before and after the “shahi snaan” dates. The state has also been asked to send samples for genome sequencing to the National Centre for Disease Control, in case of surge in cases or a super spreader event.
India reported 43,846 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with Maharashtra again accounting for about 60% of the infections. This is the highest one-day jump in new cases since November 26. With 197 deaths, also the highest in 97 days, the toll climbed to 1,59,755.