New Delhi, 21 March 2021: Shri Rajesh Bhushan, Union Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has written to Chief Secretary Uttarakhand strongly highlighting the concerns raised by the high level central team in its visit to Uttarakhand and about the need of stringent measures to control the spread of Covid19 during Kumbh Mela.

A high level Central Team led by Director NCDC visited Uttarakhand on 16th-17th March, 2021 to review the medical and public health preparedness measures undertaken by the state for the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.

The Union Health Secretary has also observed that currently more than 12 states in India have shown a surge in COVID19 cases during past few weeks, and pilgrims expected to visit Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela could also be from these States. It has been noted that there is a potential of an upsurge in cases in the local population after the auspicious Shahi Snan days during the Kumbh Mela.

The Secretary also noted that as per the report of the Central Team, 10-20 pilgrims and 10-20 locals are being reported positive every day. This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly turning to an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh.

The State has been informed that the daily testing numbers reported in Haridwar (i.e.50,000 Rapid Antigen Tests and 5,000 RTPCR tests) are not enough to effectively offset huge number of expected pilgrim footfall. It has been advised that the share of RTPCR tests being conducted at present needs to be significantly increased as per the ICMR guidelines to ensure that the pilgrims and local population is appropriately tested.

The State Government is also advised to undertake the following measures:-

  1. Follow scruplously the SOPs issued by MoHFW. Display signages to disseminate the main points of these SoPs.
  2. Increase awareness of self-reporting, especially among local population, in case of symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
  3. Set up system for generating early warning signals in areas with susceptible population by monitoring trend of ARI/ ILI cases through Emergency Operational Centres.
  4. Target significantly enhanced testing in potential high transmission areas.
  5. Continue periodic testing of frontline workers before and after auspicious snan days of the Kumbh.
  6. Ensure operationalization of adequate critical care treatment facilities.
  7. Effective risk communication, by using all forms of media platforms, for strict adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour.
  8. In case of surge in cases/super spreader events, promptly send samples for genome sequenci ng in consultation with NCDC.

The Union Health Secretary has urged the Uttarakhand government to take a stock of the public health measures being undertaken by the State in consonance with the aforesaid recommendations of the Health Ministry.