With India consistently reporting more than 10,000 Covid cases over the past few days, the Centre Wednesday asked states and Union Territories to ensure a random RT-PCR screening of about two per cent passengers in each incoming flight, and send all positive specimens for genomic sequencing.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan issued the advisory through a letter to states and UTs, referring to the ‘Operational Guidelines for Revised Surveillance Strategy in context of COVID-19’ issued by the Centre on June 9.
Bhushan asked them to implement the revised strategy which focuses on early detection and timely management of suspected and confirmed cases, and the containment of outbreaks of new coronavirus variants.
Bhushan said the June 9 strategy was issued with the long-term vision to fully integrate COVID-19 surveillance within existing Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) mechanism.
Summarising the actions that states need to take, Bhushan said they should ensure “Surveillance of Incoming International Travelers which will include random screening of 2 per cent of passengers in each incoming flight into India by RT-PCR”.
He asked them that all positive specimens should be sent for genome sequencing and such passengers should be advised isolation and clinically managers as per prevailing guidelines.
He also said all healthcare facilities should report Influenza Like Illness (ILI) cases, and mentioned that the District Surveillance Officer (DSO) will be responsible to analyse the data.
Five per cent of ILI cases shall be tested through RT-PCR, he said.
Health facilities should ensure monitoring of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) cases in all district hospitals and selected tertiary hospitals and undertake their RT-PCR test for Covid, he said.
State IDSP shall share this data on a fortnightly basis and the lab testing for COVID-19 should upload their data on Indian Council for Medical Research portal, he said.
The revised strategy further stressed on community-based surveillance for early detection of unusual events in the community such as large outbreaks, unusual clinical presentation of cases, mortality, etc.
Bhushan said the three-pronged genomic surveillance strategy should be implemented by states and UTs. Also, positive samples from large clusters or outbreaks in the community and unusual events should also be sent for whole genome sequencing.
In addition, revised surveillance guidelines also call for sewage and wastewater surveillance which may provide early warnings on the potential local surge of COVID-19, the letter said.
“Please ensure that the guidelines are disseminated to all districts, and identified health facilities and labs across the state and their implementation shall be ensured.
“I am sure the state governments and UT administrations shall make these guidelines to enable us to retain and build on the gains made so far in this fight against COVID-19,” the letter said.