In a meeting with secretary-level officials of 12 states and Union Territories, the Centre on Saturday reviewed the recent increase in coronavirus cases and recommended them steps to contain the pandemic. Municipal commissioners and district collectors of 46 districts that are most severely affected by the rise in cases and mortality rates were also present in the meeting.

The government recommended a five-fold strategy to the affected states and districts. It asked them to take stringent actions in the next two weeks towards containment and contact tracing, the health ministry said in a release.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, who chaired the meeting, stressed on the need to follow coronavirus-related guidelines. He said that an infected person could spread the virus to an average of 406 people in 30 days without restrictions.

However, Bhushan said, that the number of infected people can be brought down to 15 by reducing physical exposure by 50%. It can drop to 2.5 if exposure is reduced to 75%, he added.

The health secretary said that data showed 90% people were aware about the need to wear masks, but only 44% actually did so.

The Centre also informed the states that in recent times, the country witnessed the sharpest weekly rise in cases (7.7%) and fatalities (5.1%) since May last year. The 46 districts, who were part of the meeting, accounted for 71% of the cases and 69% of the deaths this month, according to the health ministry.

In its recommendations, the Centre asked states to ensure maintenance of Covid-appropriate behaviour through awareness campaigns and by taking penal actions. It also advised them to increase testing exponentially, to trace and isolate at least 30 contacts of each infected person.

The Centre also underlined the importance of re-energising the healthcare workers to get rid of any complacency or fatigue. Besides, the states were advised to optimally utilise all vaccination capacities within the public and private sectors in all districts.

The government is struggling with the highest single-day tally of new infections and deaths this year. Only the United States and Brazil have higher coronavirus cases than India.